The American Kestrel is Pacific Northwest’s smallest falcon, it is also, one of the most beautiful falcons. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also one of the fastest falcons of all the falcons that live or visit our coast. We see them almost daily here on Vancouver Island and they can be seen on most parts of the coast. Read More….
The adult bald eagle is easy to identify but the immature birds are easily confused with the golden eagle, both have dark brown bodies but the golden eagle has a much redder color to it and his head is almost golden. It is 5 years before the bald eagle fully matures. Read More….
The Barn Owl is a fairly small owl with a max body length of 50 cm, a wingspan of just over 1 meter, and weighs up to 1.5 kilos. Barn owls can be found all over the Pacific Northwest and over most of North America. The Barn owl’s northern range is limited only by the severity of winter weather and the availability of prey. Read More….
Typical Barred Owl habitat consists of forests with some mature trees near open country. Their historic range covered the eastern half of North America, but recently the owl’s range is expanding into western North America, they are now breeding in parts of the pacific northwest. Read More….
The Cooper’s Hawk could best be described as a reluctant migrant. Although it leaves the northern portions of its breeding range in winter, it spends the non-breeding season farther north than most other hawks. There are year-round populations that inhabit the Pacific Northwest. Read More….
The Golden Eagle is a very large, dark brown bird of prey. Adults are distinguished by golden-brown feathers on the back of the head, neck, and upper wings. They have gold-flecked brownish eyes, the bald eagle’s eyes are much more yellow in color. Read More….
Great Gray Owl
This is our largest owl, the Great Gray Owl is a dark grey color with bars and flecks of light grey and white, They have a dense, fluffy plumage that, when perched, makes them look quite bulky, they have long wings that extend past the body, a fairly long tail, and a very large head. The size of the head and the prominent facial disk make the yellow eyes appear small. Read More….
Great Horned Owl
The Pacific Northwest has a fairly large population of Great Horned Owls but you would be considered lucky to see one. They always hunt at night and usually deep in the old-growth forests. They reside year-round in their territories on the southern coast. Read More….
The Long-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl, they have long feather tufts on their heads from which they get their name. These owls are not often seen, they hunt the deep forests at night. They are sometimes confused with the great horned owls but they are much smaller and have more light brown on the head and chest. Read More….
The Merlin Falcon often prey on small to medium size birds, swooping down from above and grabbing the unsuspecting bird in flight. The song sparrow is the Merlin’s prey of choice. Merlin’s can be seen in most parts of the pacific northwest, but they are an uncommon bird. Read More….
The Northern Goshawk lives in the coastal forest regions of the Pacific Northwest. This goshawk prefers coniferous forests, but will also live in deciduous and mixed forests from sea level to subalpine areas. This bird can also be seen in urban forested parks. Read More….
Northern harriers can be found all across the north including all the Pacific Northwest, they prefer open country, like grasslands, wetlands, meadows, cultivated areas, and woodland forest settings. Birds in the northern part of their range will migrate south during the winter months, southern populations do not migrate. Read More….
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is our smallest owl on Vancouver Island, they are around the size of an American Robin. They can be found in dense thickets or conifers, often at eye level, although they can be found around 20 feet up. Saw-whets are often in danger of being preyed upon by larger owls and raptors. Saw-whet owls are also migratory birds without any strict pattern. Read More….
The Osprey arrive in the Pacific Northwest in the first weeks of April and they have left for their winter grounds by the end of October. They nest near lakes, marshes, and along the ocean shores. Read More….
The peregrine falcon can be found in all parts of the pacific northwest, look for them at the forest edge and atop utility poles at the edge of the road. Adults have blue-gray wings, dark brown backs, a creamy brown colored underside with brown spots, and white faces with a black tear stripe on their cheeks. Read More….
The red-tailed hawk is the largest of hawks weighing an average of 1 to 2 kilos and reaching up to 65 cm in length. Its wingspan can reach up to 175 cm long. It has a dark brown crown, cheeks, back, and wings. It has a white neck, chest, and belly, and has heavy brown markings on the lower chest and flanks. Its tail is broad with a distinctive rusty red color and usually has a black bar on the end. Read More….
The Pacific Northwest has a permanent population of sharp-shinned hawks, but it is a rather small population. The slender, long-bodied sharp-shinned hawk has short, rounded wings and a long, narrow tail. The adult has a dark, blue-gray back and a rusty barred breast, immature hawks have more brown, with streaking on the underparts. Read More….
Short-Eared owls prefer open meadows and wetlands to breed in. Breeding begins in March and runs through June. When short-eared owls court, they will put on elaborate displays of flight and wing clapping, this is incredible to observe. These birds primarily hunt small mammals, but they will eat small birds, birds eggs and the young will eat all sorts of insects. Read More….
These large white owls breed up on the tundra in the Arctic, where the females lay up to 11 eggs in their nest. The number of eggs depends upon the amount of prey that is available in any given year. In some real lean years, these owls may not breed at all. These are tough little birds who will defend their nests against all threats including wolves, foxes, or other birds of prey. Read More….
Swarthi Northern Pygmy Owl
The Swarthi Northern Pygmy Owl is endemic to Vancouver Island. The Northern Pygmy-Owl has 7 subspecies in North America with 3 of them breeding on the coast of BC. The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a very small owl that does not exceed 17 cm in length. The Swarthi Northern Pygmy Owls are diurnal, this allows them to be seen hunting during the day, although they hunt all day, they prefer to hunt at sunrise and sunset. Read More….
Turkey vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell, which enables them to find out a dead animal within 24 hours of its death. They are also empowered with sharp eyesight, which helps them to search out food. If the need arises, turkey vultures can also live on vegetation. Read More….
Western Screech Owl
The western screech owl is essentially non-migratory. On the coast, it is found in all woodland habitats, but it prefers mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, usually near a source of water. Hooting has been recorded every month on the coast but begins in earnest in February. Read More….
Birds of prey are the lords of the air realm, they are the forest hunters, the warriors, the raptors. They are the predators that hunt with their powerful beaks, strong feet, and razor-sharp talons. They are the ones with extraordinary eyesight and incredible hearing.
The term bird of prey is applied to two groups of birds, first is the vultures, eagles, hawks, and falcons, these are the day hunters. Then there are the night hunters, those that hunt in the dark. This group consists mostly of owls, which include the barred owl, barn owl, short-eared owl, great gray owl, great horned owl, western screech owl, and the northern pygmy owl. There are 421 species of birds of prey in the world and 133 of them are owls.
These two groups of birds are the most threatened birds in the world. In the last 30 years, the destruction of their habitat by logging, mining, and oil/gas extraction along with human encroachment has reduced their numbers dramatically worldwide and this is happening right here on our island. Man has sometimes thought of these birds as cruel and even hunted them almost to extinction for this reason. But like all the wild creatures on our Island, they are only doing what they need to in order to survive. There is no motive or malicious reason in their actions other than survival.
Our world has many varieties of birds and animals that live in balance with one another in the chain of life. Birds are a big part of this with many types, in all sizes. The birds of prey or raptors come with sharp hooked beaks, sharp talons, and amazing eyesight that allows them to spot and home in on prey from great distances.
Birds of prey are carnivorous, they are easily identified by their hooked beaks and sharp talons to capture and tear apart their prey. Therefore, these birds are the kings of the air. Our island has many types of raptures that call it home, they are the eagles and falcons, the owls and ospreys, the hawks and vultures. They all play a role and have their place in the ecosystem. All raptor’s beaks are similar in design, curved at the tip with sharp cutting edges to rip and tear apart their prey. Falcons will sever the spinal cord of their victims with their sharp beaks.
These hunters, these birds of prey have very strong claws that end with sharp talons. These claws are very formidable. They are perfectly designed to capture, hold, and carry prey. These claws are quite powerful and can literally crush their prey to death. Osprey being fish eaters, have one hinged toe that can be held in a forward or backward position. This allows them to hold fish with two talons on each side for a secure grip. An Osprey has spiny scales on its feet that help them grip fish more securely.
Birds of prey have very keen eyesight with forward-looking eyes, this allows them to home in on prey from a great distance. All raptors are meat-eaters. Their diets may change from location and species but they all eat meat.
9 thoughts on “Birds Of Prey”
Saw either a juvenile red tail or sharp shinned hawk take down a starling on Adanac street in Vancouver city today. The crows were pissed! LOL! April 24 2021
Hello every year about this time there is always one baby owl crying over and over for hours.Today quails and a robin were sounding their alarms at it.I live on a rural property just wondering if it’s starving or just calling after it’s parents while they hunt.Havent seen the parents yet.
I would suspect that it is just calling out to be fed.
We live on a mountain. It is nice. We see many of these birds every day flying around. We also see deer. I was on Hwy 18 before and saw turkey vultures and ravens.
Hi! I live on rural property just outside Victoria and I often see large dark birds of prey soaring around. Is there and easy way to tell if they’re juvenile bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks, or turkey vultures? Perhaps from the shape of the wings of tail?
Most likely Turkey Vultures riding the warm currents, the ends of there wings have feathers that stick out like short fingers that they use to adjust their flight.
Thanks Bud, for this clear, straight forward guide to local birds of prey.
Saw 2 bald eagles, and 3 other large birds- either Turkey vultures or brown eagles.. couldn’t tell, I was driving on the highway 18.
Thanks again, appreciate it
I will be in Vancouver from 25 Sep till 6 Oct. I like wildlife photography and I am looking for a birding guide who can bring me to photography owls and bird of prets.
Hi Wah, I live up on northern Vancouver Island, it’s quite far from Vancouver.