A Scrapbook of Bird Identifications - Raptors

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Raptors can be easily recognized by the deadly nature of their bills and claws. They include the smaller accipiters (which typically hunt smaller birds), like the Cooper's Hawk, the kites, the larger buteos (which typically hunt rodents), such as the Red-tailed Hawk, the falcons and the vultures.

American Kestral

rufous, barred back and falcon head pattern

smallest North American falcon
Bald Eagle

adult at rest

second year plumage (from back)

juvenile (dark belly)

adult in flight; call is much weaker than you might expect

juvenile (dark belly, pattern of white)
Black Vulture

silvery ends on all-black wings

dark head, black back
Broad-winged Hawk

light adult (breast, belly pattern)
Coopers Hawk

large rounded tail, bands on primary feathers

speckled throat and breast, tip of tail white; larger than Sharp-shinned Hawk

back of neck pale (Sharp-shinned is dark)
Merlin

falcon facial pattern, white throat, buffy undertail, strongly checkered/barred underwings

small, gray back, barred front
Northern Harrier

female (brown/white barred underwing pattern)

juvenile (orange body); harriers distinguished by owl-like face and white rump
Osprey

unique; call is much weaker than you would expect

note size, facial pattern, white/dark pattern underneath
Peregrine Falcon

gray back, falcon facial pattern, white breast
Red-shouldered Hawk

orange body, wing patches, checkered wings, narrow tail bands

juvenile (even streaking on front, little or no orange)

orange bars on belly merge at breast, orange on shoulders; stocky; facial look distinctive
Red-tailed Hawk

juvenile (faint streaking on front, tail not yet red)

ubiquitous; streaked belly; red tail not always obvious while perching; often perches near roads; call is often a single long screech, descending in tone

red tail, dark streaks on belly, dark commas mid-wing, dark wing edges
Turkey Vulture

pink head, silver/white wing tips and trailing half, long tail

pink head, yellow bill, pale legs, otherwise blackish-brown; nasty hissing voice


©2017, Kenneth R. Koehler. All Rights Reserved.