The Ultimate Birds Of Prey (Raptor) Identification Guide

An eagle with a snake. Birds of prey.

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Are you ready to identify the birds of prey you see out in the wild?

Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are majestic birds with sharp talons, mighty wings, and keen eyesight.

What sets birds of prey apart from other birds is that they hunt and feed on other animals.

This guide will help you identify the ten types of birds of prey with information and pictures for each bird.

And before we get started, here are a couple of items to help you identify the birds you see in nature – a good pair of binoculars and a comprehensive book on birds of prey. (There are over 500 species of raptors in the world!)

My favorite birding binoculars are the Nikon Prostaff Binoculars. They are a great price and are easy to focus.

Kristen using the Nikon Prostaff Birding Binoculars
Me birdwatching with my Nikon Binoculars
View binoculars on Amazon ➡

This is a fantastic hardcover book on birds of prey. The photographs are stunning!

Birds Of Prey

Birds of Prey book
Birds of Prey
View on Amazon ➡

The Ultimate Birds of Prey Identification Guide

1 – Eagles

Eagle, a bird of prey in all parts of the world

Eagles are swift and have been clocked at over 200 miles per hour when diving. They have the best eyesight of any animal and can spot another eagle 50 miles away.

Eagles generally hunt prey that is close to their size or smaller, but certain species of eagles, like the golden eagle, are known to hunt animals as large as deer or bear cubs.

2 – Hawks

Hawks are found in in all of North America.

Hawks are birds of prey found all over the world except Antarctica. They are excellent hunters and can catch prey while flying at high speeds. They can also change direction quickly and make sudden turns to catch their prey.

Hawks are often used in falconry, which is the sport of hunting birds of prey. They are trained to hunt small game, such as rabbits and squirrels.

3 – Owls

Owls, a bird of prey in North and South America.

Most owls are nocturnal birds of prey, although some are diurnal, meaning they also come out during the day. Owls are known for their large, round heads, big eyes, and silent flight.

They have excellent hearing and locate their prey using sound. They can turn their heads up to 270 degrees allowing them to see almost any direction without moving their body.

4 – Falcons

Falcon Bird of prey Carolinas

Falcons have a specialized notch in their beak called a falcon’s tooth that helps them break the necks of their prey without having to spend time and energy holding it down.

Falcons have a unique feather pattern that helps reduce drag and fly at extremely fast speeds. Falcons are used in falconry and are easy to train to catch small game like squirrels and rabbits.

5 – Vultures

Vultures, a bird of prey found all over the world.

Vultures are scavenger birds that feed on the carcasses of dead animals.

Their unique digestive system allows them to eat rotting flesh without getting sick. Their stomach acid is 10 – 100 times stronger than humans, which helps them to break down bacteria and toxins.

Vultures play an essential role in the ecosystem by cleaning up dead animals and reducing the spread of disease.

6 – Kites

A kite - a bird of prey.

Kites are medium-sized birds of prey known for their long, pointed wings and forked tails. They can hover in the air, allowing them to hunt for prey more effectively.

Kites are often seen soaring in the sky in large groups, known as kettles. This behavior helps them conserve energy and increase their chances of finding food.

7 – Harriers

Harrier Bird of prey. Lives in the United States and Canada.

Harriers have a unique facial disk that helps them locate prey by amplifying sounds.

They feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. They are often seen hunting low to the ground, where they can use their wings to flesh their prey out into the open.

Harriers are known for their spectacular courtship displays. The male performs a series of aerial acrobatics to impress the female.

8 – Ospreys

The Osprey is found in Florida, Alaska, Argentina and more.

Ospreys are also known as fish hawks or sea hawks because they specialize in catching fish.

They have several adaptations that make them highly effective at doing this, including sharp talons, a reversible outer toe, and a unique nose that can close to keep out water while diving.

Ospreys travel thousands of miles each year to reach their breeding grounds. Some ospreys have been known to travel over 5,000 miles during migration.

9 – Buzzards

Buzzard - a bird of prey found all over the world.

Buzzards or buteos are medium-sized birds of prey found in many parts of the world.

They are known for their distinctive call, a high-pitched screech that can be heard from far away. They use it to communicate with other buzzards and to establish their territory.

Buzzards hunt for small mammals, birds, and reptiles but also feed on carrion (dead animals).

10 – Caracaras

Caracara - a bird of prey found in Cuba, South America, Mexica, and Florida.

Caracaras are opportunistic predators, which means they will eat a wide variety of food, including carrion, insects, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They have been known to steal food from other birds, such as vultures.

Caracaras are found in the Southern United States, including parts of Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. They are also found in Central and South America and the Falkland Islands.

I highly recommend this book about Caracaras: A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life of the World’s Smartest Birds of Prey. If you don’t already love and appreciate Caracaras, this book will certainly endear you to them.

A book about Caracaras titled, A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey
Book about Caracaras
Find on Amazon ➡

Spotting birds of prey in nature is exciting and rewarding. I hope this guide will aid you in identifying these fascinating birds.

Once in a while, I’ll spot a hawk in my backyard, an eagle at my lakehouse, or hear the call of an owl at night.

I hope you are able to see these magnificent creatures in your environment.

A hawk - bird of prey - from my backyard
Hawk from my backyard.

So get out there with your binoculars, this guide, or an identification book, and see how many birds of prey you can identify!

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Hi! I'm Kristen

I'm based in North Carolina, and love finding the hidden gems of the Carolinas and beyond! I explore quaint towns, adventurous outdoor activities, and fantastic food to help my readers plan their own unforgettable travels.

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16 Responses

  1. What an interesting post on birds of prey. My husband would love this and am definitely sharing this with him. I’ve never heard of Kites before. They look beautiful! I’ve been seeing a lot of hawks in my small town in Kentucky recently – I love watching them.

  2. Thanks for sharing the guide to the Birds of Prey. They are amazing birds of nature, we have an owl theme going on in my house.

  3. What an informative birds of prey identification guide! I moved out to a small town in the desert a couple of years ago and the birdwatching here is fascinating. We have a lot of birds of prey that can be seen circling at any given time during the day, so I look forward to seeing if I can identify them now!

  4. I love spotting birds while we are hiking. Your birds of prey raptor guide will be very helpful — also a great pair of binoculars!

  5. I’ve never called it this, but we actually have many bird of prey here in western Florida. My friend & I walk at a nature park that we can see hawks all the time coming & going. Very cool!

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