Vultures, Hawks & Eagles

Mississippi Kite

Look for The Mississippi kite is a small raptor with a lithe body, pointed wings, and a square tail. The adult Mississippi kite has primarily gray plumage, darker on its back and upperwings and a lighter shade on its head and secondary wing feathers. Its tail and the tips of its wings are black.  It… Read more

California Condor

California condor, photo by Brian Simms via Wiki Commons

Look for The California condor is the largest flying land bird in North America. It has a thick black body with a bald, yellowish-orange head. It has massively broad wings with distinct white patches underneath. Juvenile California condors have dark grayish-black coloration throughout. Listen for The California condor isn’t a very vocal bird and is… Read more

Rough-legged Hawk

Look for The rough-legged hawk is a large, broad-winged raptor in the buteo genus named for the distinct feathers that cover its legs. It occurs in two color forms or “morphs”: dark and light. Both morphs have a white tail with a black terminal band. While in flight, viewed from below, both morphs have dark… Read more

Snail Kite

Snail Kite, photo by Lip Kee via Wiki Commons.

Look for The snail kite is a medium-sized hawk with a narrow, dramatically hooked bill with an orange base and black tip. It has broad wings and a squared-off tail with a band of white across the tip and base. It has reddish-brown eyes and orange legs. Males are a uniform dark bluish-gray, and female… Read more

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed kite photo by Dick Daniels / Wikimedia

Look for The swallow-tailed kite is the largest kite in North America. It has pure white head, neck, breast, and belly that contrast with a black back, wings and tail. It has black flight feathers and white wing linings that are easy to see while it is soaring overhead. Its wings are long and thin… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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