Florida birds of prey

FLORIDA BIRDS OF PREY: Species and their Identification

Introduction

The southernmost state on the east coast of the United States, Florida, is well known for its breathtaking scenery, pleasant climate, and varied wildlife. The peninsula is a well-liked travel destination for both visitors and nature lovers because of its lovely beaches, pleasant weather all year round, and theme parks

like Disney World and Universal Studios. In addition to its stunning beaches and theme parks, the area is home to a large number of wetlands and marshes that are brimming with unusual fauna. Florida is a sanctuary for nature lovers with its warm climate and diverse landscape.

  • Florida boasts one of the nation’s most biologically diverse animal kingdoms.
  • The state’s pristine blue skies are adorned with a variety of birds, enhancing its natural beauty and ecological value.
  • The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey houses over 50 non-releasable raptors, serving as ambassadors for their species.
  • Certain raptors migrate through Florida, but the majority are year-round residents.
  • Understanding these birds is crucial for residents and visitors alike.
  • Delving into the world of these formidable hunters, the exploration describes their presence, traits, and ecological responsibilities.
  • These magnificent predators, ranging from eagles to falcons, hawks to owls, are vital for Florida’s ecosystem’s biodiversity and ecological equilibrium.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

1 Golden Eagle

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameAquila chrysaetos
Length27.6-33.0 in (70-84 cm)
Weight105.8-216.1 oz (3000-6125 g)
Wingspan72.8-86.6 in (185-220 cm)

Powerful and mysterious, the Golden Eagle is a rare yet remarkable sight in Florida’s skies. Distinguished by their magnificent size and strength, these eagles are easily identified by their rich brown plumage, feathered legs, and brilliant golden-brown nape.

  • The western and mountainous regions of North America are home to the majority of golden eagles.
  • Some Golden Eagles do, however, spend the winter in Florida.
  • These raptors are skilled hunters that take down a diverse range of prey, such as small mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles.
  • Their favorite kind of hunting is taking off at high altitudes and swiftly descending to catch their prey.
  • In Florida, golden eagles are occasionally spotted in the north and west, especially in areas with expansive terrain and excellent hunting areas.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

2 Bald Eagle

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameHaliaeetus leucocephalus
Length27.9-37.8 in (71-96 cm)
Weight105.8-222.2 oz (3000-6300 g)
Wingspan80.3 in (204 cm)

The majestic raptor known as the Bald Eagle commands attention in Florida’s many landscapes. It is a symbol of both national pride and ecological value. It is easily recognized in the state due to its bright white head and tail that contrast with its dark brown body.

  • In Florida, bald eagles are now a year-round sight, frequently seen in close proximity to big bodies of water including lakes, rivers, and coastal environments.
  • They are fierce hunters and scavengers that mostly eat fish, but they also take down small animals and waterfowl among their other prey.
  • With their powerful talons and acute vision, bald eagles can precisely seize their prey.
  • They build enormous nests in Florida, usually high up in the towering tree canopy close to sources of water.
  • Bald Eagle populations have recovered as a result of successful conservation measures, countering reductions brought on by habitat loss and pesticide exposure.
  • In addition to representing national identity, bald eagles are now associated with environmental conservation and recovery in Florida.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

3. Peregrine Falcon

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameFalco peregrinus
Length14.2-19.3 in (36-49 cm)
Weight18.7-56.4 oz (530-1600 g)
Wingspan39.4-43.3 in (100-110 cm)

Florida’s skies are graced with the unmatched speed and prowess of the Peregrine Falcon, one of the most iconic raptors in the world and one of the fastest birds in the world. These falcons are renowned for their incredible hunting skills and are easily identified by their bluish-gray feathers, prominent black markings, and characteristic “hooded” appearance.

  • Notable for their exceptional flight speed, peregrine falcons may soar at up to 240 miles per hour on hunting missions.
  • Their main food source is other birds, which they frequently dive from tremendous heights at a rapid rate of speed to capture.
  • Because of their adaptability to a variety of situations, Peregrine Falcons can be found in a variety of habitats in Florida, including wetlands, urban landscapes, and coastal locations.
  • Peregrine Falcons are among the fastest birds in the world and a living example of the amazing engineering feats of nature.
  • They have become a symbol of strength and accuracy due to their amazing speed and beautiful beauty.
  • Because they manage bird populations, Peregrine Falcons play a crucial role as apex predators in maintaining ecological equilibrium, as seen by their presence in Florida.
  • Their existence also serves as an example of the amazing diversity of the state’s birdlife.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

4. Merlin

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameFalco columbarius
Length9.4-11.8 in (24-30 cm)
Weight5.6-8.5 oz (160-240 g)
Wingspan20.9-26.8 in (53-68 cm)

The little and nimble Merlin falcon lends Florida’s sky a hint of velocity and energy. Easily identified by their sleek, blue-gray feathers and striking black patterns, such as a noticeable black stripe on their face known as the “malar stripe,” these falcons are skilled hunters who like wide-open spaces.

  • Merlins are renowned for their amazing aerial gymnastics; they are frequently observed flying quickly and dartingly in pursuit of tiny birds.
  • They eat a variety of foods, such as insects, little birds, and occasionally small mammals.
  • Merlins can be found in many different types of habitats in Florida, such as open forests, coastal regions, estuaries, and urban parks.
  • For birdwatchers in Florida, Merlins are a mesmerizing sight because of their distinctive appearance and agile hunting technique.
  • Their unique attractiveness is enhanced by their furious look and black malar stripe.
  • Because they help regulate the numbers of birds and insects in their habitat, merlins are a dynamic example of the range of avian predators found in the state.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

5. American Kestrel

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameFalco sparverius
Length8.7-12.2 in (22-31 cm)
Weight2.8-5.8 oz (80-165 g)
Wingspan20.1-24.0 in (51-61 cm)

The American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, is a colorful and active predator that adds beauty to Florida’s wide-open spaces. These kestrels are small and swift fliers, easily identified by their rufous and blue-gray plumage and strong black markings.

  • Since American Kestrels mainly live in open environments like grasslands, farms, and cities, Florida’s varied landscapes make ideal homes for them.
  • They are renowned for having outstanding hunting abilities, mostly focusing on small mammals, birds, and insects as their prey.
  • They can locate and catch prey precisely because of their excellent vision and hovering hunting technique.
  • American Kestrels are a common sight in Florida, where they frequently sit on fence posts or utility wires to look for prey.
  • In the various habitats that make up the state, they are essential for regulating insect populations and preserving ecological balance.
  • Their captivating look, active hunting style, and ability to adapt to city settings make them a favorite among birdwatchers and a delightful part of Florida’s bird diversity.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

6 Red-shouldered Hawk

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameButeo lineatus
Length16.9-24.0 in (43-61 cm)
Weight17.1-27.3 oz (486-774 g)
Wingspan37.0-43.7 in (94-111 cm)

The most prevalent hawk in Florida is the red-shouldered hawk. Its stunning black and white markings and brilliant reddish-brown plumage are what define it. The Red-shouldered Hawk is a forest-dwelling bird that prefers to sit atop trees and carefully scan its area.

  • In Florida, red-shouldered hawks are frequently spotted perched on power wires, particularly near residential and rural roads.
  • It is well known for its piercing, booming call, making it a vocal presence in Florida’s outdoors.
  • Being an opportunistic predator, this hawk feeds on reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals.
  • The Red-shouldered Hawk puts on an amazing aerial show during it’s breeding season, diving and soaring to entice possible mates.
  • Even though these hawks are not internationally threatened, habitat degradation is still a problem for them in some parts of Florida, which is why ornithologists and wildlife enthusiasts should be concerned about their conservation.
  • In Florida, red-shouldered hawks can be seen all year round.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

7 Red-tailed Hawk

AttributeMaleFemale
Scientific NameButeo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensis
Length17.7-22.1 in (45-56 cm)19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
Weight24.3-45.9 oz (690-1300 g)31.8-51.5 oz (900-1460 g)
Wingspan44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)

Adult Red-tailed Hawks can be identified by their stunning rusty-red tail feathers and by the darker feathers that form a “belly band” across their otherwise pale breast and belly. Celebrated for its imposing appearance and stunning size, this hawk is frequently larger in Florida than the more common Red-shouldered hawk.

  • The Red-tailed Hawk, a soaring master of the open skies, may achieve a wingspan of up to four feet. It is often seen riding thermals in quest of prey.
  • This raptor is well known for its flexibility because it may be found in a wide range of environments, including urban areas, grasslands, and woodlands.
  • Its opportunistic hunting approach is demonstrated by the small animals, birds, and even reptiles that it consumes.
  • In Florida, red-tailed hawks can be seen all year round.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

8 Short-tailed Hawk

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameButeo brachyurus
Length15.3-17.3 in (39-44 cm)
Weight13.6-16.9 oz (385-480 g)
Wingspan32.7-40.5 in (83-103 cm)

The Short-tailed Hawk is distinguished by its unusual appearance and coloring. The remarkable color dimorphism of the Short-tailed Hawk, which exhibits two separate color morphs within the species—a dark morph and a light morph—is among its most fascinating characteristics.

  • The light morph of the Short-tailed Hawk is distinguished by pale gray plumage with a rufous-colored head, while the dark morph has striking dark brown plumage on its upperparts. Both morphs share white underparts and a neck.
  • The southernmost parts of Florida, especially the Everglades and the Florida Keys, serve as year-round habitats for these hawks. During the breeding season, they can be found in the middle section of the state. At least one pair can be regularly sighted in Palm Bay’s Turkey Creek Sanctuary in Brevard County.
  • Short-tailed Hawks are noted for their deft flying and love of wide-open forests and marshlands. They primarily feed on birds, especially small to medium-sized ones, which they catch in midair with incredible accuracy.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

9 Cooper’s Hawk

AttributeMaleFemale
Scientific NameAccipiter cooperiiAccipiter cooperii
Length14.6-15.3 in (37-39 cm)16.5-17.7 in (42-45 cm)
Weight7.8-14.5 oz (220-410 g)11.6-24.0 oz (330-680 g)
Wingspan24.4-35.4 in (62-90 cm)29.5-35.4 in (75-90 cm)

You’ll see that we’re in a new genus with the Cooper’s Hawk. The body of a buteo hawk is strong, and its tail is short. Accipiters have longer tails that reach far beyond the body (and the tips of their wings when perched), and their bodies are more elongated overall. There are a couple more Buteos below, but we’re going to briefly switch to Accipiters because they’re less prevalent!

  • While juveniles might occasionally be more difficult to spot, adults can be recognized by their unique slate-gray feathers and vivid crimson eyes.
  • This species has a small, powerful body that helps with quick flying and accurate hunting.
  • Cooper’s Hawks are well known for their remarkable agility and versatility in a range of settings, from residential areas to wooded locations.
  • An expert avian hunter, Cooper’s Hawks primarily prey on tiny birds and utilize deep cover to their advantage.
  • They hunt using speed and stealth, frequently ambushing their prey from concealed perches.
  • Cooper’s Hawks exhibit strong territorial behavior by building nests in higher trees during the breeding season.
  • They play a vital role in maintaining the balance of Florida’s avian environment by regulating the populations of lesser bird species.
  • Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts find them to be fascinating subjects of study due to their exceptional hunting skills and ecological relevance.
  • Although they are only present in South Florida during the winter, Cooper’s Hawks can be found all year round in northern and central Florida, with breeding typically not occurring in South Florida.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

10 Sharp-shinned Hawk

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Length9.4-13.4 in (24-34 cm)
Weight3.1-7.7 oz (87-218 g)
Wingspan16.9-22.1 in (43-56 cm)

Although they are much smaller, sharp-shinned hawks resemble Cooper’s hawks in appearance. It is, in actuality, the tiniest hawk in both Florida and the entire US. Despite this, it can be difficult to tell the two species apart because of how similar they look.

  • Given that they both have red eyes and slate-gray plumage, field identification can be challenging.
  • Sharp-shinned hawks are only found in Florida in the winter, so any accipiter observed in the summer or during the mating season is most likely a Cooper’s Hawk.
  • Other indicators of a Sharp-shinned hawk include smaller stature, a square tail (rather than rounded), more slender legs, and a propensity to be found deeper in forests.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

11 Broad-winged Hawk

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameButeo platypterus
Length13.4-17.3 in (34-44 cm)
Weight9.3-19.8 oz (265-560 g)
Wingspan31.9-39.4 in (81-100 cm)

The yearly fall migration of the amazing Broad-winged Hawk provides a captivating show for both birdwatchers and ornithologists, as it soars across Florida’s skies. From their breeding grounds in North America to their wintering grounds in Central and South America, these hawks set off on an amazing adventure.

  • Florida serves as a crucial stopover point for Broad-winged Hawks during migration.
  • Recognizable by their compact size, broad wings, and brown plumage.
  • They emit high-pitched calls and gather in large flocks known as “kettles” during migration.
  • Broad-winged Hawks primarily hunt small mammals, birds, and occasional reptiles from concealed perches in wooded habitats.
  • A dark morph exists but is more commonly seen in the western United States.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

12 Northern Harrier

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameCircus hudsonius
Length18.1-19.7 in (46-50 cm)
Weight10.6-26.5 oz (300-750 g)
Wingspan40.2-46.5 in (102-118 cm)

A unique, low-flying raptor, the Northern Harrier is a sight to behold on Florida’s wetlands and marshes. This hawk is distinguished by its unusual physical attributes, which include a tall wingspan, slender body, and a white patch on the rear that stands out against its mottled brown feathers.

  • Northern Harriers, who are expert hunters of small mammals and birds in dense foliage, have a face disk resembling an owl, which helps them hear better than many other hawks.
  • The Northern Harrier is known for its beautiful and low-flying hunting flights. It frequently hovers above grasslands and marshes, using its acute hearing to detect movements of its prey below.
  • Florida is home to Northern Harriers throughout the winter, and I eagerly await their annual visit.
  • (A white rump patch is another distinguishing feature of snail kites; don’t mix them with that field mark.)
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

13. Turkey Vulture

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameCathartes aura
Length25.2-31.9 in (64-81 cm)
Weight70.5 oz (2000 g)
Wingspan66.9-70.1 in (170-178 cm)

Another important scavenger in Florida’s bird population is the Turkey Vulture, which is distinguished by its red, featherless head. Turkey Vultures are excellent scavengers because of their exquisite sense of smell, which allows them to detect the smell of carrion from great heights.

  • They are frequently seen in the state’s skies due to their enormous wingspans and soaring flying patterns, and they are essential to the removal of deceased animals.
  • Although these vultures forage mainly alone, they frequently congregate at communal roosts at night.
  • Turkey Vultures, although having bald heads that aid in keeping them clean when consuming carrion, are incredibly adaptive birds that have flourished in Florida’s natural and urban settings.
  • Their distinct ecological niche promotes the general health of the ecosystem by halting the spread of diseases linked to decomposing carcasses.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

14. Black Vulture

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameCoragyps atratus
Length23.6-26.8 in (60-68 cm)
Weight56.4-77.6 oz (1600-2200 g)
Wingspan53.9-59.1 in (137-150 cm)

Black vultures, so named because of their small, hooked beaks and stunning black feathers, are frequently seen in Florida’s landscapes. They are nature’s recyclers, often seen soaring gracefully on thermals, and they are essential to keeping the environment hygienic and eliminating carrion.

  • Their keen eyesight helps them locate the scent of dead animals, and they often follow Turkey Vultures to feeding opportunities.
  • Black Vultures are highly social birds, often congregating in large groups at communal roosts.
  • Their adaptability and tolerance for urban environments have allowed them to thrive even in densely populated areas.
  • These vultures are remarkable examples of nature’s cleanup crew, efficiently disposing of carcasses and preventing the spread of disease.
  • However, their scavenging habits can sometimes bring them into conflict with human activities, such as damaging vehicles by pecking at rubber and plastic parts.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

Owls

In Florida, owls are nocturnal predator birds that are renowned for their exceptional night vision and silent flying. This section will explore the world of Florida’s owls, including their diverse range of species, habits, and significant function as nocturnal predators in the state.

15 Great Horned Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameBubo virginianus
Length18.1-24.8 in (46-63 cm)
Weight32.1-88.2 oz (910-2500 g)
Wingspan39.8-57.1 in (101-145 cm)

The Great Horned Owl, with its enigmatic presence and commanding hoots, rules the Florida night skies. Large in stature and easily identifiable by its characteristic “horns,” which are actually tufts of feathers, this owl is the top predator of the night. Its extraordinary flexibility allows it to be found across Florida, from deep woodlands to urban settings.

  • Great Horned Owls are highly skilled hunters with a diverse diet, including small to medium-sized mammals, birds, and even other owls.
  • Equipped with powerful talons and silent flight, they ambush their prey with precision.
  • Known for their distinctive hooting calls, which serve as territorial markers and communication with mates.
  • Often nesting early in Florida, they use abandoned nests of large birds or create their own in trees.
  • Exceptional parents, both actively involved in raising their young.
  • Vital for controlling rodent populations in Florida’s ecosystems, making them essential wildlife components.
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16 Barred Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameStrix varia
Length16.9-19.7 in (43-50 cm)
Weight16.6-37.0 oz (470-1050 g)
Wingspan39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)

The charismatic and widely distributed Barred Owl is an owl species found in Florida that is well-known for its characteristic “Who cooks for you?” sound. Barred Owls are common in the state’s wooded marshes, swamps, and woodlands. They are distinguished by their huge, black eyes, and mottled brown and white plumage.

  • Skilled hunters, their diet includes small mammals, birds, amphibians, and fish.
  • Thrive in diverse habitats, from dense forests to suburban areas.
  • Known for territorial calls, used for communication and asserting dominance.
  • Utilize tree hollows or abandoned nests for nesting.
  • Both parents actively involved in raising chicks.
  • Integral to controlling rodent populations, enriching ecosystems with vocalizations and nighttime presence.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

17 Barn Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameTyto alba
Length12.6-15.8 in (32-40 cm)
Weight14.1-24.7 oz (400-700 g)
Wingspan39.4-49.2 in (100-125 cm)

With its heart-shaped face disk and eerie appearance, the Barn Owl is a fascinating and unusual species of owl found in many environments throughout Florida. This owl, which is easily identified by its almost white feathers with brown markings, excels in silent flying and nighttime hunting.

  • As proficient rodent hunters, barn owls are essential to Florida’s efforts to manage rodent populations and agricultural pests.
  • Their primary food source is tiny mammals such as mice and rats, which they can detect with their extraordinary sense of hearing even in complete darkness.
  • Thanks to specially designed feathers, they can fly silently and sneak up on prey without being spotted.
  • In addition to nesting in tree cavities and other natural nooks, they frequently live in man-made buildings in Florida, such as barns, silos, and abandoned buildings.
  • Barn Owls are a welcome sight in the state’s agricultural landscapes, despite their nocturnal habits and ghostly appearance. They provide natural pest management services and wow birdwatchers with their ethereal beauty and eerie sounds.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

18 Eastern Screech-Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameMegascops asio
Length6.3-9.8 in (16-25 cm)
Weight4.3-8.6 oz (121-244 g)
Wingspan18.9-24.0 in (48-61 cm)

The diminutive yet endearing Eastern Screech-Owl, commonly transcribed as Eastern Screech Owl without the hyphen, is a frequent and well-liked resident of Florida’s suburban areas and woodlands. These owls can be identified by their small stature,

feather tufts that resemble “horns,” and a variety of plumage hues, ranging from gray to reddish-brown. They are also well-known for their characteristic nighttime trilling cries.

  • These predators of the night consume a wide variety of foods, including frogs, small mammals, birds, and insects.
  • Because of their skill at hiding behind tree bark, Eastern Screech-Owls are difficult to see during the day.
  • They are cavity nesters; they frequently find cover and a place to nest in tree cavities, nest boxes, or abandoned woodpecker holes.
  • Year-round residents of Florida, they live in urban parks and residential neighborhoods, where they skillfully cohabit with human progress.
  • Bird aficionados love them for their versatility, distinctive vocalizations, and captivating look, which make them an integral member of Florida’s diverse avian community.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

19 Burrowing Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameAthene cunicularia
Length7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)
Weight5.3 oz (150 g)
Wingspan21.6 in (55 cm)

With its unique behavior and burrowing lifestyle, the intriguing and little Burrowing Owl species brings some elegance to the landscapes of southern Florida. Distinguished by their elongated limbs, brown feathers flecked with white, and vivid yellow eyes,

these owls are recognized for their connection to subterranean burrows, frequently repurposing ones excavated by ground squirrels and gophers.

  • Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are diurnal, known for characteristic head movements and distinctive cooing whistles.
  • They have a diverse diet, including insects, small mammals, and occasional birds, nesting in burrows for protection.
  • Found in open habitats like grasslands, pastures, and urban areas, adapting to nesting in man-made structures.
  • Fascinating and important for insect control, they coexist with human development.
  • Conservation efforts are critical for preserving their unique behaviors and habitats in Florida’s ecosystems.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

20 Short-eared Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameAsio flammeus
Length13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
Weight7.3-16.8 oz (206-475 g)
Wingspan33.5-40.5 in (85-103 cm)

The Florida landscapes are periodically graced by the Short-eared Owl, especially in the wintertime. Notable for their mottled brown plumage, unique facial disk, and brilliant yellow eyes, these owls are recognized for their characteristic flight patterns and stealthy hunting styles.

  • Short-eared Owls are highly migratory and can be difficult to locate; they mainly live in open grasslands, marshes, and coastal regions.
  • They hunt tiny mammals, especially rodents, using their great hearing and vision, and they occasionally carry these animals to Florida where they can find sufficient feeding.
  • Even though they are not as frequently seen as some other owl species in Florida, these owls play a significant role in maintaining the balance of the local ecosystem by suppressing rodent populations.
  • In the winter, birdwatchers find them to be a fascinating sight in the vast landscapes of the state, thanks to their unusual flight displays that involve hovering and gliding low over hunting grounds.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

21 Northern Saw-whet Owl

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameAegolius acadicus
Length7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm)
Weight2.3-5.3 oz (65-151 g)
Wingspan16.5-18.9 in (42-48 cm)

The Saw-whet of the North Occasionally, when migrating, owls will stop in northern Florida. These owls are distinguished by their diminutive stature, rounded form, and prominent facial disk. They exude an endearing and mysterious aura.

  • Northern Saw-whet Owls primarily inhabit coniferous and mixed forests, mainly in northern regions of North America.
  • During migration periods in fall and spring, some individuals may make their way to Florida.
  • Their diet consists primarily of small mammals, particularly mice and voles.
  • Known for secretive behavior and excellent camouflage, they often remain hidden within dense vegetation during the day.
  • Their high-pitched, repetitive call resembling a saw being sharpened is distinctive during migration through Florida.
  • While visits to the state are sporadic, their presence adds mystery to Florida’s birding community during migratory seasons, delighting fortunate encounters with these elusive travelers.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

Kites

The beautiful and soaring kites, with their unique hunting styles and smooth gliding, adorn the skies over Florida. Kites lend a sense of grace to the state’s bird population with their distinct traits and activities. This section delves into the world of Florida’s kites, highlighting their incredible flight ability, diversity of species, and ecological significance.

22 Snail Kite


Attribute
Measurement
Scientific NameRostrhamus sociabilis
Length14.2-15.3 in (36-39 cm) male, 14.6-15.6 in (37-39.5 cm) female
Weight12.7-15.5 oz (360-440 g) male, 12.3-20.1 oz (350-570 g) female
Wingspan42.9-45.7 in (109-116 cm)

Specialized and unusual, the Snail Kite is especially adapted to Florida’s marsh settings, where it exhibits amazing hunting skills. Distinguished by their remarkable reddish-brown feathers, elongated bill, keen yellow eyes, and white areas on their tails, these kites have developed the ability to adapt to a diet mostly composed of apple snails.

  • Snail Kites use their excellent eyesight to identify apple snails and extract them from their shells with remarkable accuracy using their long, thin bills.
  • Florida’s Everglades and other wetlands provide an ideal habitat for Snail Kites due to their dependence on these watery areas for hunting and nesting.
  • The Snail Kite serves as a fascinating study subject and reflects the delicate balance in Florida’s wetland ecosystems with its unique adaptations and specialized diet.
  • Conservation efforts are crucial to preserve Florida’s canals and marshes, as they depend on Snail Kites and their habitat.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

23 Mississippi Kite

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameIctinia mississippiensis
Length13.4-14.6 in (34-37 cm)
Weight7.6-9.5 oz (216-269 g)
Wingspan36 inches (01 cm)

During the nesting season in Florida, the Mississippi Kite, a graceful and little raptor, adds a touch of elegance to the state’s summer skies. These kites are distinguished by their soft gray plumage and unique dark patterns surrounding their eyes. They are also well-known for their kind demeanor and aerial stunts.

  • Mississippi Kites primarily inhabit urban areas, open fields, and woodlands, where they hunt insects in flight, particularly grasshoppers, crickets, and dragonflies.
  • During the summer months, they migrate to Florida for breeding, nesting in the state’s tall shrubs and trees.
  • Their summer visits highlight Florida’s role as a temporary refuge for migratory birds and contribute to maintaining ecological balance by managing insect populations.
  • Observing Mississippi Kites in summer serves as a delight for birdwatchers and emphasizes the interconnectedness of bird species across vast ranges.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

24 Swallow-tailed Kite

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameElanoides forficatus
Length19.7-25.2 in (50-64 cm)
Weight13.1-21.2 oz (370-600 g)
Wingspan48.0 in (122 cm)

With its eye-catching black-and-white plumage and characteristic forked tail, the Swallow-tailed Kite is a summer visitor to Florida that goes on amazing migrations throughout Central and South America. These kites, which are easily identified by their elegant flying movements and distinctive design, represent freedom and grace in the skies.

  • Swallow-tailed Kites nest in Florida’s marshes and woodlands during the summer, feeding primarily on insects, lizards, and small animals.
  • During seasonal shifts, they embark on remarkable migratory journeys spanning thousands of miles to winter in the lush forests of Central and South America.
  • The Swallow-tailed Kite’s impressive migratory behavior underscores the interconnectedness of bird species across the Americas and underscores the importance of conserving their breeding and wintering habitats.
  • Birdwatchers eagerly anticipate the annual return of these graceful raptors, which serves as a poignant reminder of the extraordinary journeys they undertake for survival.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

25 White-tailed Kite

AttributeMeasurement
Scientific NameElanus leucurus
Length12.6-15.0 in (32-38 cm)
Weight10.6-12.7 oz (300-360 g)
Wingspan39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)

You can see the White-tailed Kite soaring across the grasslands, marshes, and open habitats of Florida. Distinguished by their immaculate white feathers, striking dark eyes, and unique black shoulder patches, these kites are praised for their graceful hovering and hunting skills.

  • White-tailed Kites are skilled hunters, primarily feeding on small mammals like voles and mice.
  • They are known for their unique hunting technique, hovering in one spot before diving precisely for their prey.
  • Found in the southern parts of Florida, especially in the Everglades and coastal regions.
  • Popular among birdwatchers for their distinctive appearance and hunting habits.
  • Adaptable to various open environments, highlighting their importance in Florida’s bird community.
  • Their presence adds elegance to Florida’s skies, reminding us of the state’s beauty.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

26 Osprey

Scientific NamePandion haliaetus
Length21.3-22.8 in (54-58 cm)
Weight49.4-70.5 oz (1400-2000 g)
Wingspan59.1-70.9 in (150-180 cm)

A notable predatory bird that is abundant in Florida’s coastal environments is the osprey. The classic appearance of the Osprey is characterized by its powerful hooked beak, eye stripe in dark color, and dazzling white head. The raptor known as the “Fish Hawk” gets its name from the fact that fish is its main food source.

  • Ospreys are skilled fishers, adapted for catching aquatic prey.
  • In Florida, many Ospreys nest on utility poles instead of trees, showcasing adaptability.
  • They play a vital role in regulating fish populations along Florida’s coast.
  • Ospreys are admired for their aerial displays and hunting prowess.
  • Despite their hawk-like appearance, Ospreys are not true hawks.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

27 Crested Caracara

Scientific NameCaracara plancus
Length19.3-22.8 in (49-58 cm)
Weight37.0-45.9 oz (1050-1300 g)
Wingspan48.0-49.2 in (122-125 cm)

The wide-open spaces and sweeping landscapes of Florida provide a home for the unique and stunning Crested Caracara. These caracaras are distinguished by their brilliant orange-yellow facial skin, bold black and white plumage, and characteristic crest atop their heads.

  • Grasslands, pastures, and agricultural fields are typical habitats for crested caracaras. They perch on utility poles and fence posts to look for prey.
  • Carrion, insects, small animals, and small reptiles are among their food sources.
  • By eliminating carrion from the environment, their scavenging behaviors contribute to the sanitation of the ecosystem.
  • They resemble falcons more than vultures, despite their scavenging habits.
  • The Crested Caracara adds to the diversity of birds in Florida.
  • Bird aficionados find them fascinating because of their remarkable behavior and look.
  • They are prime examples of prey birds’ adaptability and their function in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.
  • They are also well-known for their unusual foraging techniques and environmental adaptability.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

28 Limpkin

CharacteristicMeasurement
Length64–73 cm (25–29 in)
Wingspan101–107 cm (40–42 in)
Body Mass900 to 1,300 g (2.0 to 2.9 lb)
Average Body Mass1,080 g (2.38 lb)

The only surviving species in the family Aramidae, the limpkin (Aramus guarauna), is a huge wading bird related to rails and cranes. It is also known by the names carrao, courlan, and wailing bird. It usually inhabits wetlands.

  • Males are slightly larger than females but show no plumage difference.
  • Plumage: Drab dark brown with white markings on head, neck, wing coverts, back, and underparts, giving a streaked appearance.
  • Legs: Long and dark-gray.
  • Neck: Long.
  • Bill: Long, heavy, downcurved, yellowish with a darker tip. Slightly open near the end for snail removal, with the tip curving slightly to the right.
  • White markings less noticeable in first-year birds.
  • Wings: Broad and rounded.
  • Tail: Short.
  • Often confused with immature American white ibis.
  • Vocalization: Loud wild wail or scream with a rattling quality, common at night, dawn, and dusk. Other calls include “wooden clicking,” clucks, and a piercing “bihk, bihk” in alarm.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

29 Gyrfalcon

CharacteristicMaleFemale
Length48 to 61 cm (19 to 24 inches)51 to 65 cm (20 to 25+1⁄2 inches)
Weight805 to 1,350 g (1 lb 12+1⁄2 oz to 2 lb 15+1⁄2 oz), average: 1,130 or 1,170 g (2 lb 8 oz or 2 lb 9+1⁄2 oz)1,180 to 2,100 g (2 lb 9+1⁄2 oz to 4 lb 10 oz), average: 1,585 or 1,752 g (3 lb 8 oz or 3 lb 13+3⁄4 oz)
Wingspan110 to 130 cm (43 to 51 inches)124 to 160 cm (49 to 63 inches)

The largest species of falcon, (Falco rusticolus), is a predatory bird. There is also usage of the acronym gyr. Breeding grounds include tundra and Arctic beaches, as well as the northern North American islands and the Eurosiberian region.

  • Although most gyrfalcons live in their natural area, some move farther afield during the winter or after the breeding season.
  • Its feathers exhibit regional variations, spanning from pure white to a deep brown hue, which are known as morphs.
  • It displays sexual dimorphism, with females being significantly larger than males, like other falcons.
  • The gyrfalcon has been prized as a hunting bird for ages.
  • Its usual prey consists of fish and animals, as well as ptarmigan and ducks, which it may catch in flight.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

30 Common buzzard

Measurement
Length40 to 58 cm (16 to 23 inches)
Wingspan109–140 cm (43–55 inches)
Female SizeAverage 2–7% larger than males linearly
Female WeightApproximately 15% more than males
Body MassVaries considerably
Male (Great Britain)427 to 1,183 g (0.941 to 2.608 lb)
Female (Great Britain)486 to 1,370 g (1.071 to 3.020 lb)

The medium-to-large common buzzard (Buteo buteo) is a member of the Accipitridae family of raptors, specifically the genus Buteo. Its breeding range extends into portions of the Palearctic, including northwest China, far western Siberia, and northwest Mongolia. It is widely distributed throughout Europe.

  • Common buzzards are widespread throughout Europe and parts of Asia, with some migrating to South Africa for winter.
  • They primarily prey on small mammals, especially rodents like voles, often hunting from perches.
  • They build nests in trees and provide dedicated care to their offspring.
  • The common buzzard is one of the most prevalent diurnal raptors in Europe, with a global population numbering in the millions.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

31 Rough-legged Hawk

CharacteristicMeasurement
Wingspan4′ – 4’8″
Length1’6″ – 1’10”
Weight148 – 3 lbs

Buteo with a large head, long tail, and rather long wings. Its outline resembles that of a lanky Red-tailed Hawk. Birds with light morphs have a pale head, a dark belly band, black carpal patches on their wings (which are not patagial), and a white tail (which is not the rump) with a dark terminal band.

With the exception of the silvery flight feathers on the undersides of their wings, dark-morph birds are completely dark. often has a shallow dihedral when holding wings.

  • Females are larger.
  • Rough-legged hawks have eight morphs based on sex, age, and location.
  • Both sexes have light and dark morphs, with coloration varying between juveniles and adults.
  • All adult morphs feature a black band on the underside of their lesser coverts and dark eyes.
  • Juveniles have light eyes and a dark band on the underside of their wings.
  • Light morph adult females have brown backs, one dark tail band, and heavily marked leg feathers.
  • Light morph adult males have grayish backs, multiple tail bands, and heavily-marked leg feathers.
  • Dark morph adult males are black or brownish with white tail bands.
  • Dark morph adult females are dark brown with a single black tail band.
  • Dark morph juveniles resemble adult females but have rusty bands under wings and tails, some with a pale-brown head.
Florida birds of prey birdzpedia.com

Comparison Most Commonly Found Florida birds of prey

Bird of PreySizeHabitatDietConservation StatusInformation
Bald Eagle6.5–14 pounds, 2.3–3.1 ftLakes, marshes, and coastsFish, avian species, and tiny land mammalsThreatenedSymbol of the US, it constructs the biggest nests of any bird in North America.
Osprey6 ft in length, 3–4 poundsLakes, marshes, and coastsFishLeast Concernrenowned for doing spectacular talons-first dives to capture fish
Red-shouldered Hawk1-2 pounds, 3.5-4.5 ftWetlands, marshes, and forestsReptiles, small mammals, and birdsLeast ConcernIt is recognized for its unique “kweeer” sound and usually builds its nests in the same spot every year.
Red-tailed Hawk2-4 ft in length, 2-4 poundsWoods, open spaces, and forestsReptiles, birds, and small mammalsLeast ConcernAmong the most common and widely distributed hawks in North America
Peregrine Falcon1-2 pounds, 2.3-3.5 ftTall skyscrapers, open spaces, and coastal cliffsInsects, bats, and birdsEndangeredThe world’s fastest animal, recognized for its lightning-fast dives known as “stoops” for hunting.
American Kestrel3-5 oz, 1.5–2 ft in wingspanWooded areas, meadows, and open spacesBirds, small animals, and insectsLeast ConcernThe only falcon that hunts frequently and has colorful plumage
Cooper’s Hawk2.5–3.5 ft in length, 0.5–1.5 poundsSuburban regions, woods, and woodlandsBirds, small mammalsLeast ConcernSwift avians frequently observed streaking through dense forests in search of food
Great Horned Owl4-5 ft in length, 2–5 poundsDeserts, wetlands, and forestsReptiles, small mammals, and birdsLeast ConcernOne of the first birds to nest, it is distinguished by its unique “hooting” cry.
Barred Owl3–4 ft in wingspan, 1-2 poundsForests, swamps, and wetlandsSmall mammals, birds, reptilesLeast ConcernNighttime scavengers; frequently observed perched on limbs close to water
Turkey Vulture4-5 pounds, 5–6 ft in wingspanOpen areas, forests, and desertsCarrion, garbageLeast ConcernSuperb sense of smell; frequently spotted soaring high in the heavens

Florida Predator Birds Hotspots for Observing Birds

Florida is home to numerous national parks, wildlife refuges, and sanctuaries where one can go bird watching. In addition to environmental education and family-friendly environmental activities, these locations frequently provide bird watching.

The most well-liked locations in Florida for bird watching are:

National Park of Florida Everglades

More than 300 different species of birds as well as crocodiles are protected in this national park. In the park, viewing birds is a well-liked past time.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Over 13,000 acres in southwest Florida are protected as animal habitat by this sanctuary. Among other wildlife, their efforts aid in the protection of several raptors, ducks, wood storks, and wading birds.

Fort DeSoto County Park

Islands, coastal lands, and coastal waters are all protected areas within this park. In addition to birdwatching, campers can enjoy canoe trails, dog parks, and nature paths, among many other activities.

Watching Tips of Florida Birds Of Prey 

Dealing With Aggressive Birds

Aggressive birds may protect their nests or food. To stay safe, keep your distance.

Why Predatory Birds Attack

They might see people as a food source. Avoid carrying smelly food while birdwatching.

Law About Nest Removal

Federal law protects nesting birds. Removing nests without a permit is generally illegal.

Summary

Predator birds abound throughout Florida’s many terrain, ranging from the magnificent Bald Eagles to the nimble Mississippi Kites. With their distinct ecological responsibilities and adaptations, these amazing raptors play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of the state’s ecosystems.

However, in order to guarantee that these wonderful birds will always be present in Florida’s sky, it is becoming more and more important to prioritize conservation efforts, habitat protection, and sustainable practices as long as human impacts on the environment persist.

Their beauty and habits inspire us to appreciate our common duty to protect the environment in which we all live. We are motivated and united in our desire to protect Florida’s raptors for future generations by their existence.


FAQs

1. Which raptors are frequently seen in Florida?

  • The Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Cooper’s Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, and Turkey Vulture are common predatory birds in Florida.

2. Where I can see Florida birds of prey?

  • Predatory birds inhabit a variety of environments in Florida, such as open fields, marshes, woodlands, wetlands, and residential areas.

3. What do Florida birds of prey eat?

  • Depending on the species, its diet might vary, but it usually consists of fish, insects, birds, reptiles, and small mammals. For instance, owls and hawks hunt small mammals, birds, and reptiles, whereas ospreys eat fish.

4. Are any Florida birds of prey in danger of extinction?

  • Yes, because of habitat loss and pesticide exposure, the Peregrine Falcon is listed as endangered in Florida. To preserve and replenish their numbers, conservation initiatives are being carried out.

5. How can I safely watch Florida birds of prey in their natural environment?

  • You should keep a respectful distance from prey’s nests and feeding grounds in order to safely observe them. Utilize spotting scopes or binoculars to observe them from a distance without interfering with their behavior.

6. Which kind of hawks inhabit Florida?

  • Florida is home to a wide variety of year-round residents as well as countless migratory species.
    It is thought that Florida is home to fourteen distinct hawk species that migrate through the state.

7. Which Florida hawk is the largest??

  • Florida is home to the largest hawk species, the ferruginous hawk. These hawks can reach lengths of up to 25 inches and wingspan lengths of up to 56 inches, or 4 ⅔ feet. They are usually heavier than three pounds.

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