florida birds of prey bald eagles -florida state bird

Florida’s diverse ecosystems are home to an impressive array of avian predators, collectively known as “Florida Birds of Prey.” These remarkable raptors include iconic species such as the Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, and many more.

With their sharp talons, keen eyesight, and powerful beaks, these birds play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the Sunshine State.

As we delve into this exploration of Florida’s Birds of Prey, we will unveil the intriguing world of these majestic creatures, highlighting their unique characteristics, habitats, and contributions to the local environment. From the coastal regions to the lush wetlands and dense forests, these avian hunters thrive in various landscapes across Florida, captivating both wildlife enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

florida birds of prey

The Red-shouldered Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo lineatus

Size: medium.The size can vary slightly between males and females, with females generally being larger than males, which is common among birds of prey.

It is a striking bird of prey commonly found in Florida. With beautiful reddish-brown feathers on its shoulders and a distinctive loud call, it’s hard to miss.

Red shouldered Hawk

The length of this hawk is about 17 to 24 inches (43 to 61 cm)Their wingspan ranges from 37 to 43 inches (94 to 109 cm.They usually weigh between 1.2 and 1.8 pounds (550 to 820 grams)

These hawks are about the size of a football and are known for their stunning aerial displays. They use their sharp talons and hooked beak to catch small mammals, reptiles, and even some larger insects.

Red-tailed Hawk

  • Size: Red-tailed hawks are large raptors with a wingspan ranging from 3 to 4.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most widespread and recognizable birds of prey in North America, including Florida. They have a beautiful rusty-red tail, which becomes more prominent as they mature.

red tailed hawk in florida

They are skilled hunters, primarily preying on rodents like mice and rabbits. Their keen eyesight helps them spot their prey from high in the sky before swooping down for a successful catch.

Barred Owl

  • Size: Barred owls are medium-sized owls with a wingspan of about 3 to 4 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia

Barred Owls are often heard before they are seen, with their distinctive hooting calls echoing through Florida’s forests. They are known for their striking dark eyes, horizontal barring on their feathers, and round faces. 

barred owl florida

 

These owls are skilled nocturnal hunters, primarily seeking out small mammals, birds, and amphibians as their prey. Barred Owls have adapted well to suburban and urban areas, making them a common sight in many Florida neighborhoods.

Cooper’s Hawk

  • Size: Cooper’s hawks are medium-sized birds of prey with a wingspan of about 2.5 to 3.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawks are agile and skilled hunters known for their speed and precision. They have blue-gray feathers on their backs and distinctive reddish bars on their breasts. 

coopers hawk florida birds of prey in flight

These hawks are often found in wooded areas, where they chase down smaller birds in mid-air. Cooper’s Hawks are adapted for maneuverability, allowing them to navigate through dense vegetation in pursuit of their prey.

American Kestrel

  • Size: American Kestrels are small falcons, measuring around 9 to 12 inches in length with a wingspan of about 20 to 24 inches.
  • Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

The American Kestrel is the smallest and most colorful falcon in North America. They are known for their vibrant plumage, which includes a combination of blue, rust, and white feathers. 

american kesteral florida

These agile birds of prey primarily feed on insects and small mammals. They are often seen perched on utility wires or hovering above open fields while hunting.

Bald Eagle

  • Size: Bald eagles are large raptors with a wingspan ranging from 6 to 7.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

The Bald Eagle is a symbol of the United States and is one of North America’s largest birds of prey. They are easily recognized by their distinctive white head and tail feathers. 

bald eagles florida state bird

These majestic birds primarily feed on fish, often found near lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. Their impressive size and striking appearance make them a symbol of strength and freedom.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • Size: Sharp-shinned hawks are small to medium-sized raptors with a wingspan of about 9 to 13 inches.
  • Scientific Name: Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawks are agile and swift hunters known for their sharp talons and long tails. They primarily prey on smaller birds, making them skilled birdcatchers

These hawks are often found in wooded areas where they can maneuver easily through dense vegetation in pursuit of their avian prey.

Hawks

  • Size: Hawks vary in size depending on the species. They can range from small, like the American Kestrel, to large, like the Bald Eagle.
  • Scientific Name: Hawks belong to the family Accipitridae, and there are many different species with distinct characteristics.

Hawks are a diverse group of birds of prey found throughout North America. They are known for their keen eyesight, powerful talons, and soaring flight.

While their sizes and appearances differ, they share a common ability to hunt and play important roles in their respective ecosystems. Hawks can be found in various habitats, from forests and grasslands to urban areas, making them a fascinating and often seen part of the avian world.

Peregrine Falcon

  • Size: Peregrine falcons are medium-sized raptors with a wingspan of about 2 to 3.3 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon is renowned as the world’s fastest bird, capable of reaching speeds of up to 240 miles per hour during its hunting stoop (dive). They have striking blue-gray feathers and are known for their distinctive black markings on their faces.

Peregrine Falcon

They primarily prey on other birds, often hunting in open skies and urban areas, making them a symbol of speed and precision in the world of falconry.

Florida Bird of Prey Osprey

  • Size: Ospreys are large raptors with a wingspan ranging from 4.6 to 6 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

The Osprey, also known as the fish hawk, is easily recognizable by its white head and dark eye stripe. These birds are superb fishers, and their diet primarily consists of fish caught by plunging into water feet-first. 

florida birds of prey osprey

Ospreys are often seen near bodies of water, including coastal areas, rivers, and lakes, where they build large nests on platforms or structures.

Black Vulture

  • Size: Black vultures are medium to large-sized birds with a wingspan of about 4.5 to 5.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Coragyps atratus

Black Vultures are scavengers known for their black feathers and bald heads. They play a crucial role in cleaning up carrion from the environment.

black vulture florida bird of prey pictures

 These birds are often seen soaring in groups, known as kettles, high in the sky, using their keen sense of smell to locate food. While they may not be as glamorous as other birds of prey, they are vital to the ecosystem.

Florida Bird of Prey Merlin

  • Size: Merlins are small to medium-sized falcons, with a wingspan of about 1.7 to 2.3 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Falco columbarius

Merlins are agile and versatile hunters known for their speed and maneuverability. They have a distinctive blue-gray back and orangey-brown underparts.

Merlin or Falco columbarius

 These falcons primarily prey on small birds and are often seen darting through woodlands or open areas in pursuit of their quarry. Despite their smaller size compared to other falcons, Merlins are formidable predators.

Kites

  • Size: Kites vary in size depending on the species, with wingspans typically ranging from 2 to 3.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Kites belong to the family Accipitridae, and various species have distinct characteristics.

kites florida birds of prey

Kites are a diverse group of raptors known for their graceful flight and distinctive forked tails. They primarily feed on insects and small vertebrates, and some species are renowned for their soaring abilities. In North America, the Swallow-tailed Kite is a notable species known for its striking black and white plumage and aerial acrobatics.

Northern Harrier

  • Size: Northern Harriers are medium-sized raptors with a wingspan of about 3 to 3.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Circus hudsonius

Northern Harriers are easily recognizable by their distinctive owl-like facial disks and low-flying hunting style. They primarily hunt small mammals, birds, and reptiles, often gliding close to the ground with their keen eyesight. 

These harriers are known for their “sky-dancing” courtship displays, making them a fascinating sight during the breeding season.

Crested Caracara

  • Size: Crested Caracaras are medium-sized raptors with a wingspan of about 3.5 to 4.5 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Caracara cheriway

Crested Caracaras are unique birds of prey characterized by their distinctive appearance, including a black cap and long, hooked beak. 

They are opportunistic feeders, scavenging on carrion and hunting small animals and insects. While they are part of the falcon family, their behavior is more similar to vultures in their scavenging habits.

Eagles

  • Size: Eagles vary in size depending on the species. They can range from medium-sized, like the Bald Eagle, to massive, like the Steller’s Sea Eagle.
  • Scientific Name: Eagles belong to various genera within the family Accipitridae, and there are many different species with distinct characteristics.

Eagles are some of the largest and most powerful birds of prey globally and are renowned for their sharp beaks, powerful talons, and impressive size. 

They are apex predators, often at the top of the food chain, and are capable of hunting a wide range of prey, including fish, birds, and mammals. 

orthem harrier

The Bald Eagle, with its iconic white head and tail, is a symbol of strength and majesty in North America. These magnificent birds are celebrated for their significance in various cultures and ecosystems.

Snail Kite

  • Size: Snail Kites are medium-sized raptors with a wingspan of about 3.5 to 4 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Rostrhamus sociabilis

The Snail Kite is a specialized bird of prey known for its unique diet, primarily consisting of apple snails. 

snail kite largest bird of prey in florida

With long, slender bills and striking reddish-brown plumage, they are well adapted for snail hunting. These kites are often found in wetlands and marshes, where they use their sharp talons to extract snails from their shells.

Goshawk

  • Size: Goshawks vary in size depending on the species, but generally, they have a wingspan of about 2 to 3 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Various species within the genus Accipiter belong to the Goshawk family.

Goshawks are powerful and agile birds of prey known for their hunting prowess. They have short wings and long tails, allowing them to maneuver easily through forests and wooded areas. Goshawks primarily feed on birds and small mammals.

Goshawk dangerous birds in florida prey

 They are skilled hunters and often ambush their prey with lightning-fast strikes.

Elanoides forficatus

  • Size: Elanoides forficatus, also known as the Swallow-tailed Kite, has a wingspan of about 3.5 to 4 feet.
  • Scientific Name: Elanoides forficatus

The Swallow-tailed Kite is an elegant and distinctive bird of prey with striking black and white plumage and a deeply forked tail. 

Swallow tailed Kite

They are known for their graceful flight and soaring abilities. These kites primarily feed on insects and small vertebrates and are often seen soaring above open fields and wetlands.

 

What is the Largest Bird of Prey in Florida?

The largest bird of prey found in Florida is the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Known for its impressive size, distinctive white head and tail, and strong, hooked beak, the Bald Eagle is not only a symbol of the United States but also a dominant predator in the Floridian ecosystem. 

Adult Bald Eagles have a wingspan ranging from about 6 to 7.5 feet (1.8 to 2.3 meters) and can weigh between 6.5 to 14 pounds (3 to 6.3 kilograms), with females generally being larger than males. These majestic birds are often seen near lakes, rivers, and coastal areas in Florida, where they primarily feed on fish.

Are Florida Birds of Prey Dangerous?

Florida birds of prey, though awe-inspiring and skilled hunters, are not generally considered a danger to humans. These raptors have adapted to their environments, specializing in hunting smaller prey like rodents, fish, and smaller birds, rather than posing a threat to people.

 In fact, most Florida birds of prey tend to avoid human interactions, as they view humans as large and potentially intimidating beings.

Instances of Florida birds of prey harming humans are extremely rare. These birds primarily focus on hunting and catching prey within their natural habitats, and encounters with humans resulting in harm are exceptionally infrequent.

 Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that wild animals, including birds of prey, should be observed from a respectful distance to ensure both human safety and the well-being of these remarkable creatures.

Conclusion

Florida’s Birds of Prey are not only awe-inspiring representatives of the state’s wildlife but also vital contributors to its rich biodiversity. From the sky-soaring elegance of the Osprey to the regal presence of the Bald Eagle, these raptors symbolize the wild spirit of Florida’s natural wonders. They remind us of the importance of preserving and protecting the habitats they call home.

As we appreciate the beauty and significance of Florida’s Birds of Prey, let us also embrace our role in safeguarding their existence for generations to come. By understanding and respecting these magnificent creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit, we can ensure that Florida remains a haven for these iconic birds and a sanctuary for all of its unique wildlife.

FAQs

What is the most common bird of prey in Florida?

The bird of prey in the water in Florida is the Osprey, also known as the fish hawk.

Does Florida have golden eagles?

No, Florida does not have Golden Eagles. 

Does Florida have bald eagle?

Yes, Florida has Bald Eagles, and they are a symbol of the state.

How big are eagles in Florida?

Eagles in Florida, specifically the Bald Eagle, typically have a wingspan ranging from 6 to 7.5 feet, depending on their age and sex.

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