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Birds of Prey

Hawks are carnivores (meat eaters) who belong to the category of birds known as raptors -- birds of prey. They have strong, hooked beaks; their feet have three toes pointed forward and one turned back; and their claws, or talons, are long, curved and very sharp. Prey is killed with the long talons and, if it is too large to swallow whole, it is torn to bite-sized pieces with the hawk's beak.

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 2000
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Rufous Morph

Bald Eagle Cooper's Hawk Rough-legged Hawk


Golden Eagle Ferruginous Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk Kestrel
Peregrine Red-Tailed Hawk Sharp-shinned Hawk Kite
Harrier Swainson's Hawk TurkeyVulture Owls

What to do with an injured bird!

If you have an injured bird, here's what to do:

  • Call the Humane Society and find a registered, licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility as soon as you can.

  • Follow their instructions.

If you don't know what species of hawk or bird it is, it will be difficult to feed it properly.

All hawks are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to capture or kill a hawk, or to possess a hawk, alive or dead, without proper permits from local state governments as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I know that you care because you have taken the time to check this page, so please get the bird to a rehabilitation facility as soon as you can.

How to Distinguish Between Raptor Species

Buteos, the soaring hawks, have blocky bodies, broad wings and short tails. Their characteristic hunting strategy involves soaring high over open country, then dropping to the ground to seize prey. See Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Swainson's Hawk.

Accipiters, the woodland hawks, have short, rounded wings and long tails. These adaptations allow them to maneuver quickly among trees after birds and small mammals. Their tails usually have light and dark bars. See Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk.

Falcons have long, slim wings which taper to pointed tips. In flight the wings angle back at the wrists and wing beats are rapid. Falcon bodies are sleek; they have very round heads and long, narrow tails. Most falcons have noticeable patterns on their faces, such as the two cheek "sideburns" of the kestrel. See Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon.

Eagles are very large and can be distinguished from other raptors by their size and proportionately large, broad wings. They soar, often at great heights, and have slow, deliberate wing beats.

Other Raptors: See Osprey, Northern Harrier.

For further information The Birds of Prey Foundation

Featured site at Birding at About.com


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