The Different Types of Hawks

When most people see a bird of prey in flight or at rest, they know it's a raptor. Many people don't know or can't identify the many types of raptors apart. This article will help you identify, or at the very least learn about, the major raptor groups in the United States.

Let's start with raptors and then move on to hawks. Raptors are birds that eat other creatures, including other birds, small animals, and giant insects. Birds that hunt on tiny insects are generally excluded. One type of raptor is the eagle. The Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle are the two most prevalent eagle species in the United States. The adults can easily be distinguished because the Bald Eagle has a black body with a white head and tail, while the Golden Eagle has a dark brown body with less obvious golden feathers on the back of the neck, which gives it its name. Both are giant birds that spend much of their time flying high in the sky.


Falcons are fast-flying, narrow-winged birds of prey. Then they usually eat other birds and have a quick, direct flight, except the American Kestrel, which has a weaker, more buoyant flight. From largest to smallest, we observe the massive bulky Gyrfalcon, the Peregrine Falcon, the Prairie Falcon, the Merlin, and the American Kestrel. Buteos are what most people think of when they think of a hawk. They are broad-winged, short-tailed birds that prefer open environments. However, some smaller individuals may be forest birds. They soar on large wings and hunt by falling onto prey from the air or a perch.

Accipiters are a group of three hawk species that primarily hunt other birds by attacking them directly. Some employ surprise, while others rely only on agility, strength, and speed. Longtails, enormous wings, and powerful flight are all features of these creatures. The big Goshawk, the medium-sized Cooper's Hawk, and the tiny Sharp-shinned Hawk are the three species - click here for pictures.

The females of almost all birds of prey are more significant than the males. This will likely allow them to preserve heat and incubate eggs more effectively, while the smaller males are better hunters and support the female and the young on the nest. For photographs and more information, visit the Cornell University Ornithology website. If you want to learn more about hawks, please visit this website.