RAPTORS of North America

Raptors are carnivorous. They hunt by sight during the day, are long lived, and have low reproductive rates. The catch their prey via strong claws three pointing forward and one pointing backward. The raptors that hunt by day are: hawks, eagle, buzzards, harriers, kites, vultures, falcons, caracaras. Owls hunt by night. Raptors are also called birds of prey.



Falcons and Allies

Order Falconiformes    Family Falconidae

The Falconidae family contains the falcons, kestrels, caracaras. These are small to medium sized diurnal raptors. They differ from the hawks and their allies by the way they kill their prey. They use their beaks instead of their feet. Falconiformes have a hooked bill with a cere (soft mass) near the base. They have long broad wings for soaring. Females are bigger than males.

Genus Caracara
They are found in North and South America

Caracara, Crested also Northern Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway   Found: The Americas
The Crested Caracara has black upperparts, crest, crown; white breast, neck, mantle all with black barring; white tail with black terminal band; yellow legs; color of the facial skin depends on mood and age.
Similar to: Southern Caracara. The Southern Caracara is not found in North America, Northern not found in Argentina. Northern Crested Caracara has blackish lower back; Southern Caracara's is pale with dark barring.
Image by: 1) Edwin Delorzo - Costa Rica  2) Richard Broekhuijzen - Antwerp Zoo  3) Sebastian Niedlich - Berlin Zoo   4) Sandy Cole - Flamingo Gardens in Florida   5)  Alan D. Wilson - Texas  6) Bill Bouton - California  7) Mathew Paulson - Florida
1)  Juvenile  




Genus Falco

Falcon, Aplomado Falco femoralis   Found: southwest USA to South America
The Aplomado Falcon has dark blue-gray upperparts, cap, typical falcon "moustache", patches on side of breast that meet at belly; white throat, supercilium; black eye-line; white bib with some streaking; yellow-orange eye-ring, cere, legs.
Similar to: Peregrine Falcon. Aplomado Falcon has white eyebrow (supercilium); Peregrine Falcon does not.
Similar to: Praire Falcon. Aplomado Falcon has white bib; Prairie Falcon does not.
Image by: 1)   Jerry Oldenettel - Texas  2, 3) Elaine R Wilson - Texas  4) Charlie Westerinen - Boise Raptor Center  


Falcon, Bat
  Falco rufigularis  Found: Mexico to South America, Trinidad
The Bat Falcon has blackish upperparts, cap, cheeks; white throat. collar; black breast, upper-belly, flanks with narrow white barring; rufous lower belly. It is so named because it eats bats.
Similar to: Orange-breasted Falcon. Orange-breasted Falcon is much larger than Bat Falcon. Bat Falcon has more extensive barring on underparts and the barring is finer.
Image by: 1) Julian Londono - Columbia  2) Alan Hopkins - Guyana  3) Jorge Montejo - Mexico


Falcon, Orange-breasted  Falco deiroleucus  Found: Mexico to northern Argentina
The Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts, cap, cheeks; white throat; rufous underparts with black barring on breast.
Similar to: Bat Falcon. Orange-breasted Falcon is much larger than Bat Falcon. Bat Falcon has more extensive barring on underparts and the barring is finer.
Image by: 1) Patty McGann - Belize  2) Dominic Sherony - Belize


Falcon, Peregrine Falco peregrinus Found: Almost everywhere
The Peregrine Falcon has slate-gray to bluish-black upperparts; black head, typical falcon "moustache", wingtips; white upper-breast; white to rusty lower-breast and belly with dark barring; yellow eye-ring, cere, feet.
Similar to: Aplomado Falcon. Aplomado Falcon has white eyebrow (supercilium); Peregrine Falcon does not.
Similar to: Barbary Falcon. Barbary Falcon has paler upperparts than Peregrine Falcon.
Similar to: Gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcon larger than Peregrine Falcon. Peregrine has "sideburns" and eye-ring.
Similar to: Praire Falcon. Adult Peregrine Falcon has horizontal lines on belly; Praire Falcon has vertical lines on belly.
Similar to: Taita Falcon. Peregrine Falcon has strongly streaked underparts, Tait Falcon has relatively plain underparts.
Image by:   1) Len Blumin - California  2) Richard Droker - Washington   3, 4) Dick Daniels - Eagle Encoumters, South Africa  5) Dick - Sunset Beach, North Carolina   6, 7, 8, 9) Dick - Carolina Raptor Center  10) Larry Meade - Florida 11) Bill Bouton - California  12) Cristiano Crolle - Knysna, South Africa
1) Fledgeling  2, 11) Juvenile


Falcon, Prairie  Falco mexicanus  Found: arid western North America
The Prairie Falcon has gray-brown upperparts; pale underparts with some dark mottling; white supercilium; typical falcon "moustache".
Similar to: American Kestrel. Prairie Falcon is much larger. American Kestrel back is rufous; Prairie Falocn back is gray brown.
Similar to: Aplomado Falcon. Aplomado Falcon has white bib; Peregrine Falcon does not.
Similar to: Peregrine Falcon. Adult Peregrine Falcon has horizontal lines on belly; Praire Falcon has vertical lines on belly.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony  2) Bill Bouton - California  3) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico  4) Matt MacGillivray   5) US Geological Survey  6) Linda Tanner    7) Shawn McCready - Alberta  8) Dick Daniels
1) Juvenile  8) Prairie Falcon - Gyrfalcon hybrid (identified by Stephen Schabel)


Gyrfalcon  Falco rusticolus   Found: North America, Europe, Asia
The Gyrfalcon has white, gray, and dark morphs. It is found in the Arctic region.
Similar to: Peregrine Falcon. Gyrfalcon larger than Peregrine Falcon. Peregrine has "sideburns" and eye-ring.
Image by: 1)   Emma Bishop - Manitoba, CA  2) ChrisDupe - Washington  3) Tim Hickok   4)  Patries71  5) Charlie Westerinen - Boise Raptor Center 6, 7) Ómar Runólfsson - Iceland



Kestrel, American Falco sparverius   Found: The Americas
The American Kestrel has a white head with blue-gray crown; 2 black vertical marking on both sides of face; rufous back with barring. Male has blue-gray wings with black spots. Female has rufous wings with dark barring.
Similar to: Common Kestrel. Ranges do not overlap.
Similar to: Merlin. American Kestrel has bold stripes on head; Merlin does not.
Similar to: Prairie Falcon. Prairie Falcon is much larger. American Kestrel back is rufous; Prairie Falocn back is gray brown.
Image by:  1) Len Blumin - California  2) Jack Wolf - California  3) Dick Daniels - North Carolina  4) Dick - Puerto Rico    5) Sandy Cole - Flamingo Gardens in Florida     6) Dick - Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston, South Carolina   7, 8, 9) Dick - Carolina Raptor Center   10) Dick - Jamaica
1, 2, 3) Female  4 -10) Male




Merlin Falco columbarius   Found: North America, Europe, Asia
The male Merlin has blue-gray upperparts ranging from almost black to sliver-gray; buff to orange underparts  which are heavily streaked. Female has dark brown to brownish-gray upperparts. Both sexes have a weak off-white supercilium.
Similar to: American Kestrel. American Kestrel has bold stripes on head; Merlin does not.
Image by:  1) Omarrun - Iceland  2) Len Blumin - California  3) Dick Daniels - North Carolina   4) Jerry Oldenettel  - New Mexico   5)   Raj Boora - Alberta, Canada  6) Alan D. Wilson  
1, 2) Taiga, female  4) Praire, male  5) Praire, female   




Genus Ibycter - 1 species

Caracara, Red-throated  Ibycter americanus  Found: Mexico, Central Americal, northern South America
The Red-throated Caracara has black upperparts; white belly, flanks, under-tail coverts; bare red face and throat (may also be rosy or purple); bluish-gray cera; orange legs, feet.
Image by: 1) Sean McCann  2) Margaux1900



Genus Micrastur
Diet is a mixture of birds, mammals and reptiles. Hunting is often performed in goshawk fashion: the bird takes up a perch in an inconspicuous position and waits for a prey species to pass, then strikes with a short, rapid pursuit. Forest falcons are inventive, flexible hunters, and at least some species (such as the relatively long-legged collared forest falcon) are also capable of catching terrestrial prey on foot.

Falcon, Barred Forest-  Micrastur ruficollis  Found: Mexico, Central America, South America
The Barred Forest-Falcon has slate gray upperparts; 3 to 6 narrow white bars on tail; pale gray throat; white underparts with dark gray barring. Some species have
Image by: 1) Dario Sanches - Brazil  2) Francesco Veronesi


Falcon, Collared Forest-  Micrastur semitorquatus  Found: Mexico, Central America, South America
The Collared Forest-Falcon has 3 color morphs: pale, dark, tawny. Pale tawny has a collar for which the species is named. The species easily identified by its distinctive humanlike ‘aw’ notes,
Image by: 1) John Gerrard Keulemans  2) Dick Culbert  3) Dominic Sherony






Back to Top