Nature’s predators come in many shapes and sizes, and birds are no exception. North America hosts many species of birds of prey, all of which boast incredible speed, strength, perception and maneuverability. The life of a predator bird is both rigorous and dramatic, requiring extreme adaptation and precision.
The bald eagle is one of the most famous raptors in North America. With a massive wingspan of seven to eight feet, the bald eagle can be found mostly in the Pacific Northwest, Canada, near the Great Lakes or parts of Alaska. Tending to nest near the edge of rivers and lakes, the bald eagle has a nasty habit of stealing the prey of smaller birds by harassing them with its large size. They eat mostly fish, and although they have no sense of smell, they can still taste and will refuse to eat spoiled food. Once hard to find, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
Nesting on top of high cliffs where they can see the terrain with a wide open view, the peregrine falcon is the fastest bird of prey in North America, and the rest of the world1. It hunts high in the air, preferring to catch other birds unlucky enough to be beneath it. It will eat almost any bird it spots while hunting, dive bombing its target with speeds of up to 240 miles per hour. Peregrine falcons have a dark blue back and lightly colored underside.
The great horned owl is a dark colored bird that hunts during dusk and dawn. Its diet is one of the most various of predator birds in North America; it will eat almost any animal smaller from rodents to squirrels to smaller birds. The great horned owl has a very unique visual identifier, tufts of feathers sprouting from their head on either side carrying the resemblance of “horns.” While other birds of prey are limited to hunting either during the day or night, the great horned owl boasts eyesight that is near perfect during any time of day, and is capable of spotting moving prey from over a hundred yards away during any light conditions.
The red-tailed hawk is one of the largest of its species, weighing up to four pounds. Easily spotted by the bright red tip of its tail, the red-tailed hawk will eat almost anything from small mammals to birds and even reptiles such as snakes and lizards. The red-tailed hawk has the unique ability to change its hunting strategy depending on its prey. It may stalk its prey from cover, or pretend to look disinterested in its prey when noticed, or even dive toward its prey from great heights.
With a wide variety of colors, sizes and hunting habits, the birds of prey in North America boast incredible versatility and ability to adapt to a variety of situations. While a bear or cougar might seem like the mightiest of hunters on this continent, the birds of prey reign supreme when they take to the skies. If you ready to get out there and find one of these treasures nature has to offer, don’t forget to check out our bird watching guide first.