Members of the Acciptridae family (hereafter referred to as accipitrids) include eagles, hawks, and kites, although no kites appear in Montana other than accidently. Predators to the last, accipitrids feed on insects, fish, small (and not so small) mammals, and smaller birds. Unlike falcons (who kill with their beaks), accipitrids kill with their talons. Members of each species have their own preferred diet but they are often opportunistic hunters. Accipitrids are found on every continent except Antartica. Some, such as the rough-legged hawk, spend their summers in the artic and come south to Montana for a sunny vacation in the winter, while others are year-round residents here.
We have been lucky enough to capture photos of all 11 of the members of this avian family present in Montana. Hawk identification is notoriously difficult especially due to the fact that juvenile hawks of one species can look like adults from another species. There is also substantial intra-species variability in appearance. Many of the photos below highlight the underwing coloration which can be the most reliable indicator of species.