Vultures, Hawks & Eagles

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawk, photo by Andrew C via Wiki Commons

Look For The broad-winged hawk is a small raptor with a stocky build, wide wings (as the name suggests), and a hooked bill. It has a mottled brown head and upperparts that can sometimes feature tints of copper. It has a short, squared tail with bands of black and white. It also has white underparts… See details »

Black Vulture

Black vulture by Dick Daniels Wikimedia

Look For With its distinctive gray “light bulb head” and shorter, broader wings, the black vulture can easily be distinguished from the longer-winged, more graceful turkey vulture. The black vulture is also darker—a true soot black. In flight, its extremely short tail and broad wings give it a distinctive, nearly headless and tailless silhouette. Labored… See details »

Northern Harrier

Look For Northern harriers appear large in the field, due to their long, narrow wings (38- to 48-inch wingspan) and long, slim tail. They perch on or near the ground, appearing to have a slim build (16 to 20 inches in length), long wings, and a small, squarish head. The adult male is snow-white underneath… See details »

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Look For If the birds at your feeder seem skittish, there may be a sharp-shinned hawk nearby, ready to pounce. Sharp-shinned hawks are built for speed and maneuverability with short rounded wings, a slender body, and long narrow tail. They fly like a fighter jet as they chase fleeing songbirds into and through thick cover… See details »

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture (Photo: USFWS)

Look for The tilting flight, with wings held in a shallow “V”, immediately distinguishes a turkey vulture from most other large, dark birds in flight. At close range, the underwings appear two-toned, with the flight feathers having a reflective, pewter sheen. The small, naked head is red; the bill bone-white. On the ground, a turkey… See details »

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk (Photo: USFWS)

Look For Compared to other buteos, such as the red-tailed hawk, the Swainson’s hawk has a thinner body and longer, more tapered wings in flight. The white inner linings on the wings (in flight) are a key field mark, as is the dark brown bib above a white breast. Swainson’s hawks come in light and… See details »

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk (Photo by Alan Vernon/Wikimedia)

Look for Red-tailed hawks occur across the continent in quite a variety of plumage colorations. In the East, however, count on a few easy field marks to help identify adult birds: the reddish-orange tail, a dark-streaked belly band, and a white chest. This hat trick of field marks can easily be seen in many soaring… See details »

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk (Photo by Majoros/Wikimedia)

Look for Robin-orange shoulder patches and breast barring are hallmarks of the adult red-shouldered hawk. Although chunky, the red-shouldered is slimmer than the red-tailed hawk, and its tail is comparatively longer and barred in black and white. In flight, especially while soaring or gliding, light or clear crescents can be seen at the base of… See details »


Osprey with goldfish. Photo by Dale Southern.

Look for Chocolate-brown above and pure white below, the osprey is armed with long, pale green legs and grappling-hook talons for seizing fish. Fierce yellow eyes are ringed in black, making the bird look as though it is wearing aviator’s goggles. A banded gray tail and ragged crest complete this gangly bird’s unusual look. Females… See details »

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's hawk

Look for Care must be taken to differentiate the Cooper’s hawk from the similar sharp-shinned hawk. Adults of both species have similar markings, as do their brown-backed immatures and that of the northern goshawk (larger birds rarely seen south of Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri). Size is often not a trustworthy identification tool in the field—proportions… See details »

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