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Florida Everglades Birds of Prey

Eagle, Hawk, Osprey, Falcon & Kite

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Florida Everglades Birds of Prey

Osprey

Cal Singletary
Eagle, hawk, falcon, kite, osprey, and vulture are all birds of prey, which look for food from the air, and use their large beaks and talons to kill and eat. There is a large selection of different species of birds of prey living in the Florida Everglades. Get a glimpse of what birds of prey you might see when you visit Everglades National Park.

Learn more about what there is to see and do at Everglades National Park.

EAGLES

The Golden Eagle is a large, dark brown bird with lighter golden-brown plumage on the head and neck. It is the national animal of 5 different countries - Albania, Germany, Austria, Mexico and Kazakhstan – making it the most common national animal. Golden eagles prey on many small and medium-sized animals, particularly rabbits and squirrels. But they have also been known to prey on larger animals such as foxes and goats.

The Bald Eagle is the national bird and symbol of the U.S.A. You can tell them by their distinctive white head and tail. They feed primarily on fish, which they spot from the sky and then swoop down and grab with their talons. They build enormous nests – measuring about 8 feet wide and weighing about 1 ton! Bald Eagles were once endangered, but preservation efforts have allowed the population to rebound.

Learn more about Bald Eagles, from the About.com Guide to Birding.

HAWKS

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawk living in the U.S. They prey on small birds, particularly songbirds. The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk native to North America. They prey on small to mid-sized birds. The Rough-legged Hawk, also called the Rough-legged Buzzard, is a medium to large bird that breeds in the Arctic regions and then heads south for the winter.

The Short-tailed Hawk is a sub-tropical species mostly found in Latin America. The only place in the U.S. where they can be found is in Florida. They are about the size of a crow. The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the species often called “chickenhawks,” though they rarely prey on chickens. They are common in North America, and feed mostly on small mammals.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized bird with a brownish head, reddish chest, and pale belly with reddish bars. The Broad-winged Hawk is a fairly small bird with a dark brown body, and a white belly and chest containing horizontal barring. It is often confused with the Red-shouldered hawk, but you can tell them apart by the longer, more barred tail. The Swainson’s Hawk is a large bird, also known as the Grasshopper Hawk or Locust Hawk, due to its diet of insects.

FALCONS

The Peregrine Falcon is about the size of a crow, and has a blue-grey back, barred white underside, and a black head and "moustache.” It is believed to be the fastest animal in the world, as it can fly up to 200 miles per hour when diving into its hunting stoop. They prey mostly on medium-sized birds.

The American Kestrel is the smallest and also the most common falcon in North America. Also called a Sparrow Hawk, it hunts primarily grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and small birds. The Merlin is also a falcon, and was once known as a “pigeon hawk.” Merlins hunt by flying fast and low, using trees and large shrubs to take prey by surprise.

Learn more about Peregrine Falcons, from the About.com Guide to Birding.

KITES

The Swallow-tailed Kite has a contrasting black and white coloring, and a distinctive forked tail. They feed on small reptiles, large insects, small birds, and small mammals. The White-tailed Kite is mostly white in coloring, but with black shoulders and wingtips. They feed mostly on rodents.

The Mississippi Kite eats mostly insects, which they capture in flight. They eat cicada, grasshoppers, and other crop-damaging insects, making them beneficial to farmers. They protect their nests by diving at any perceived threats. The Snail Kite is endangered in the Everglades, with less than 400 breeding pairs present. They have hooked beaks that allow them to crack open apple snails, which they eat almost exclusively.

VULTURES

The Turkey Vulture is also known as a Buzzard, or Turkey Buzzard. They have a bald red head, similar to a male turkey, and are scavengers that feed on carrion. They are the most common type of vulture. The less-common Black Vulture has black plumage, a bald gray-black head and neck, and a short, hooked beak. They feed on carrion, but may also kill and eat newborn animals, or eggs.

OSPREY

The Osprey is a large raptor that feeds mostly on fish. The Osprey is the only raptor whose outer toe is reversible, allowing it to grasp its prey with two toes in front and two behind. They are known to soar high above their prey and then dive feet first at full force into the water, often fully submerging themselves to bring up their catch.

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