23 Birds of Prey Found in Florida! (2024)

What kinds of birds of prey can you find in Florida?

Types of birds of prey in Florida

This question is common, both for birders and non-birders alike. Raptors are popular animals that tend to catch people’s interest more than most other species. Luckily, there are many different species in all sorts of habitats.

23 Birds of Prey IN Florida:


Here is how the below list is organized. Click the link to jump straight to that section!


HAWKS


#1. Red-tailed Hawk

  • Buteo jamaicensis

Types of birds of prey in Florida

  • Length: 18-26 in / 45-65 cm
  • Weight: 1.5-3.5 lbs. / 700-1600 g
  • Wingspan: 43-55 in / 110-140 cm

Red-tailed Hawks are probably the type of hawk that people are most familiar with. These birds of prey are often seen in Florida on drives in the countryside, either soaring in the sky or perched on a fence post.

The plumage color of Red-tailed Hawks can be anything from nearly white to virtually black, so coloration is not a reliable indicator. The best way to identify them is by looking for their characteristic red tail. 🙂

Red-tailed Hawk Range Map

Red-tailed Hawk Range Map

These hawks are highly adaptable, and there is no real description of their preferred habitats because they seem to be comfortable everywhere. I have seen Red-tailed Hawks backpacking in the deep wilderness to urban cities to my own suburban backyard! Pick a habitat, such as pastures, parks, deserts, roadsides, rainforests, woodlands, fields, or scrublands, and you’ll find them thriving.

Red-tailed Hawks have impressive calls that are easily identified. Listen below to these intimidating sounds below.

YouTube video

#2. Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • Accipiter striatus

Types of birds of prey in Florida

  • Length: 9-13.5 inches / 23-37 cm
  • Weight: 3-8 oz / 82-220 g
  • Wingspan: 16.5-26.5 inches / 42-68 cm

Sharp-shinned Hawks are one of the smallest birds of prey in Florida.

They are incredibly athletic and acrobatic. It’s common to see these raptors zipping through the woods or by your bird feeders in a blur of motion!

To identify these birds, look for bars of orange on their upper chest that fade towards the belly and blue-gray back and wings. When flying, their wings are relatively short and rounded but with a long tail. Females are considerably bigger than males.

Sharp-shinned Hawk Range Map

Sharp-shinned Hawk Range Map

These raptors are common in forested areas in Florida. They are most often seen around bird feeders, hunting and preying on the songbirds that come to visit. These raptors are ambush predators, sitting patiently and then dashing out from cover at high speed to chase birds, which make up 90% of their diet.

One way to verify you have seen a Sharp-shinned Hawk is to listen for their sounds. Individuals give a high-pitched shrill “kik-kik-kik,” which is typically repeated several times.

YouTube video

#3. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Accipiter cooperii

Types of birds of prey in Florida

  • Length: 13.5-20 in / 35-50 cm
  • Weight: 8-24 oz / 220-680 g
  • Wingspan: 24.5-35.5 in / 62-90 cm

These large raptors are commonly found in Florida in the woods or on the edge of fields. Cooper’s Hawks are known for their flying agility. I see them often at my house in high-speed chases through the canopy, going after their prey.

Cooper’s Hawk Range Map

Cooper's Hawk Range Map

Because of their incredible flying abilities, these hawks primarily eat songbirds and are common in backyards around bird feeders. At my feeding station, I have observed these hawks preying on Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, and Mourning Doves.

The most common sound a Cooper’s Hawk emits is an alarm call that sounds like “kuck, kuck, kuc” or “cak-cak-cak.”

YouTube video

Visually, a Cooper’s Hawk looks incredibly similar to the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Their steely blue-gray appearance is nearly identical to the Sharp-shinned hawk, right down to the little black cap that both wear and the rufous colored chest.

The BEST way to tell these hawks apart is to look at the size difference. Cooper’s are larger than Sharp-shinneds. But if they are airborne, good luck figuring out which one you are observing!

Types of birds of prey in Florida


#4. Northern Harrier

  • Circus hudsonius

northern harrier

Northern Harriers are one of the most unique birds of prey you will find in the USA!

First, most hawks rely on their incredible eyesight to find and capture prey. But Northern Harriers also use their hearing to find food, similar to owls. Even their disc-shaped face resembles an owl. 🙂

Northern Harrier Range Map

The best places to find a Northern Harrier are open grasslands, fields, or marshes. Look for a slim, long-tailed raptor that flies low and has a white rump. Watch an example below!


#5. Red-shouldered Hawk

  • Buteo lineatus

large birds of prey and raptors

  • Length: 15-19 in / 38-48 cm
  • Weight: 1.1-1.9 lbs. / 500-860 g
  • Wingspan: 38-42 in / 96-107 cm

Distinctly marked, Red-shouldered Hawks have a barred rufous chest, mostly white underwings, a strongly banded tail, and, of course, red shoulders that are visible when perched.

Red-shouldered Hawks are primarily forest dwellers. Their favorite places are woods with an open upper canopy since this extra space allows them to hunt more efficiently. These raptors are also common in suburban areas where houses have been mixed into woodlands.

I see Red-shouldered Hawks frequently, especially in winter, hunting in my backyard for squirrels.

Red-shouldered Hawk Range Map

Red-shouldered Hawk Range Map

Speaking of food, these hawks primarily eat small mammals but will feast on snakes, lizards, and amphibians when available. When hunting, these raptors drop onto their prey directly from overhead, making their hunting style unique.

You can see this behavior below, as a Red-shouldered Hawk tries to catch a squirrel in my backyard! Don’t worry; the hawk is unsuccessful.

YouTube video

Red-shouldered Hawk hunting in my backyard!


#6. Broad-winged Hawk

  • Buteo platypterus

birds of prey species

  • Length: 13.5-17.5 inches / 34-44 cm
  • Weight: 16 oz / 450 g
  • Wingspan: 33 inches / 84 cm

The bodies of Broad-winged Hawks are short and stocky, which makes them perfectly adapted to life in the forest. These birds of prey live in Florida and are fairly common, but they are not often seen because they prefer spending their time in the deep woods away from humans.

Broad-winged Hawk Range Map

Broad-winged Hawk Range Map


#7. Swainson’s Hawk

  • Buteo swainsoni

swainsons hawk

  • Length: 18-22 inches / 46-56 cm
  • Weight: 24-48 oz / 680-1360 g
  • Wingspan: 46-54 inches / 117-137 cm

Swainson’s Hawks are raptors of the west and can often be spotted soaring or perched on fence posts, telephone poles, or trees in open areas.

Swainson’s Hawk Range Map

Swainson's Hawk Range Map

The call of the Swainson’s Hawk is a harsh alarm call that sounds like “kreeeeer,” which often lasts 2-3 seconds.

YouTube video

#8. Osprey

  • Pandion haliaetus

osprey

  • Length: 20-25.5 inches / 50-65 cm
  • Weight: 3-4.4 lb. / 1.4-2 kg
  • Wingspan: 59-71 inches / 150-180 cm

The first thing you need to know about Ospreys is they are NOT hawks! They are not eagles either and, scientifically speaking, have been given their own Family (Pandionidae) and Genus (Pandion), separate from all other birds of prey.

Even though Ospreys are not hawks, they certainly look similar to one. These raptors have also been given nicknames, such as Sea Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk, which hint at the association between an Osprey and a hawk.

Osprey Range Map

Osprey Range Map

When you think of an Osprey, you should think of fish because that is what these birds eat 99% of the time. Because of their specialized diet, you will almost always find these birds of prey living, breeding, and raising their young around water in Florida.

Listen for Ospreys next time you are around a large body of water. Their alarm call is a series of short, high-pitched whistles that descend in pitch. The noise has been compared to a teapot taken off a stove.

YouTube video

OWLS


#9. Great Horned Owl

  • Bubo virginianus

birds of prey

  • Length: 17-25 in (43 – 64 cm)
  • Weight: 2.5 to 4 lbs (1134 – 1814 g)
  • Wingspan: 3 – 5 feet (91-153 cm)

Great Horned Owls are common birds of prey in Florida.

In fact, these raptors can actually be found almost anywhere in North America, from the Arctic to the tropics. Its habitat is practically unlimited as long as there are trees and rocky nesting sites available. It is hard to find a bird that can adapt better than a Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl Range Map

great horned owl range map

These owls are large and look fierce! To identify them, look for their long tufts of feathers that resemble ears on their head.

Also, check out their intimidating eyes. I know I would not want to have a staring contest with one!

Both sexes hoot, but males are lower-pitched than females. Males give territorial calls that can be heard a few miles away at night. I don’t think there’s another owl species that does hooting better than a Great Horned Owl!

YouTube video

#10. Barred Owl

  • Strix varia

barred owl

  • Length: 16–25 in (40–63 cm)
  • Weight: 1–2.75 lbs (500–1250 g)
  • Wingspan: 38–49 in (96–125 cm)

Barred Owls are a common raptor found in Florida. The name “barred” derives from the horizontal stripes of alternating light brown and dark brown on the wings, back, and tail.

Barred Owls are the type of owl I have observed the most in the wild. They are inquisitive and will often stay and watch as you walk past them. Even if they get nervous as you approach, they typically fly off to another nearby tree to continue observing.

Barred Owl Range Map

barred owl range map

Barred Owls rely on mice and other small rodents but eat almost anything made of meat! They will readily grab rats, rabbits, bats, squirrels, moles, minks, weasels, opossums, a variety of birds, frogs, snakes, fish, and turtles, and will even hunt around your nightly campfire to catch some sweet, juicy insects.

And speaking of classical noises, their hoots are the classic sounds featured in movies and scary Halloween tales. It is easy to recognize their call as it sounds like they are asking, “Who cooks for you.” Barred Owls will sound off during daylight hours, too, and they mate for life.

YouTube video

#11. Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Megascops asio

types of owls

  • Length: 6.3– 9.8 in (16–25 cm)
  • Weight: 4.2–8.6 oz. (120–244 g)
  • Wingspan: 18–24 in (46–61 cm)

Screech-owls may remind you of professional wrestlers since they are short, stocky, and have no necks! These owls can either be grey or red, with about a third of all individuals being red.

These small raptors are found in wooded areas in Florida.

They don’t seem to mind people too much as they are comfortable nesting on top of streetlamps, next to busy roadways/highways, or inside spaces in populated buildings.

Eastern Screech-owl Range Map

eastern screech-owl range map

Eastern Screech-owls make a variety of hoots, calls, and songs, but their most popular is an even-pitched trill, often called a tremolo. The tremolo is used by pairs to keep in contact with each other and lasts between 3 to 6 seconds. I think this tremolo call sounds a lot like mating toads, and I sometimes get the two confused!

YouTube video

#12. American Barn Owl

  • Tyto furcata

barn owl

Barn Owls (aka Church Owl, Ghost Owl, and Monkey-faced Owl) have a heart-shaped face that is sandy-colored with a dark brown edge. Interestingly, the shape of an owl’s face steers sound to their ears, which helps make them efficient hunters.

Their hearing is so good that they can locate small animals under dense brush or snow with ease, and they even hunt bats!

Barn Owl Range Map

barn owl range map

Barn Owls are non-migratory and tend to inhabit abandoned barns (hence the name). Though seriously endangered in many parts of their range, farmers love them because they keep surrounding property fairly rodent-free, protecting other animals from the diseases that mice and rats carry.

They do not “hoot” in the classical fashion of other owls. Their unique screechy sound is far more reminiscent of a red-tailed hawk. When showing off for a female, males sometimes clap their wings together a couple of times while flying.

YouTube video

#13. Burrowing Owl

  • Athene cunicularia

burrowing owl

  • Length: 7.5–11.0 in (19–28 cm)
  • Weight: 5–8.5 oz. (147–240 g)
  • Wingspan: 20–24 inch (51–61 cm)

Unlike other birds of prey in Florida that spend their time in trees, Burrowing Owls live underground!

They either excavate their homes themselves or, quite frequently, take over underground shelters from squirrels or prairie dogs. These underground dens provide a lot of space to gather food. They’ve been known to have hundreds of mice in storage in case of a food shortage!

Burrowing Owls have comparatively long legs since they spend a lot of time navigating on the ground.

Burrowing Owl Range Map

burrowing owl range map

While Burrowing Owls can make a wide variety of sounds, they are not especially vocal. The most common is a two-syllable that sounds like “who-who” or “coo-coo-roo,” which is primarily made by males during mating and defending territories.

YouTube video

#14. Short-eared Owl

  • Asio flammeus

short eared owl

  • Length: 13–17 inches (34–43 cm)
  • Weight: 7.3–16.8 oz (206–475 grams)
  • Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 inches (85–103 cm)

This mid-sized tawny-brown mottled owl has false ears that are not always visible. Short-eared Owls typically only erect them when they want to look intimidating.

Your best chance to spot these birds of prey in Florida is at dusk or dawn in open fields, grasslands, meadows, or airports.

Short-eared Owl Range Map

short ear owl range map

These owls build their nests on the ground in open areas such as meadows, tundra, savanna, or prairies.

If obliged to flee its nest to draw off a predator, the parent will poop on the eggs so the smell will keep predators away. Like a Kildeer, Short-eared Owls also lure predators away from their nest by hopping away and pretending to be injured.

Short-eared Owls are not particularly vocal. But when they do make noises, these birds have a call, oddly enough, that sounds an awful lot like a cat looking for a mate.

YouTube video

FALCONS, EAGLES, & VULTURES


#15. Peregrine Falcon

  • Falco peregrinus

raptors common

  • Length: 13-23 in / 34-58 cm
  • Weight: 12-53 oz. / 330-1500 g
  • Wingspan: 29-47 in / 74-120 cm

These large birds of prey are commonly found in Florida in urban areas.

Because of their fondness for nesting on the sides of tall buildings, these falcons are common in cities where they often become local celebrities!

Peregrine Falcon Range Map

peregrine falcon range map

Peregrine Falcons have the honor of being the FASTEST animal on the planet! Don’t be fooled by stories that the cheetah is the fastest creature. Oh sure, they can crank it up to 75 mph (120 kph), and that is amazing for being on the ground.

But when a Peregrine Falcon dives, it can reach speeds of up to 200 mph (320 kph)! And it starts its journey from as high as 3,000 feet (915 m), so it cruises at these high speeds for a considerable distance.

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE THE INCREDIBLE DIVING ABILITIES OF THE PEREGRINE FALCON.

YouTube video

#16. American Kestrel

  • Falco sparverius

common falcons

  • Length: 9-12 inches / 22-31 cm
  • Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz. / 80-165 g
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches / 51-61 cm

The American Kestrel is the smallest raptor in Florida and is roughly the size of an American Robin. Don’t let the tiny stature fool you, though, because these birds of prey are accomplished hunters.

In fact, you may have heard of a kestrel’s alternate name, which is the Sparrow Hawk. This name was given because they will take sparrows and other birds of that size right out of the air!

American Kestrel Range Map

american kestrel range map

One of their favorite strategies to catch prey is to hover in the breeze from a relatively low height, looking for insects, invertebrates, small rodents, and birds. But life can be tough when you’re the smallest falcon since they are sometimes eaten as prey by larger raptors, as well as rat snakes and corn snakes!

Kestrels have a distinct call that sounds like it’s saying “klee-klee-klee” or “killy, killy, killy,” which is usually repeated rapidly. Press the PLAY button below to hear an example!

YouTube video

#17. Bald Eagle

  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus

common raptors” width=

  • Length: 28-40 in / 70-102 cm
  • Weight: 6.5-15 lbs / 3-7 kg
  • Wingspan: 71-91 in / 1.8-2.3 m

The Bald Eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782 and is one of the most recognizable birds in the world!

These large birds of prey are now quite prevalent in Florida, but that wasn’t always the case.

Bald Eagles almost went extinct in the mid-20th century due to DDT poisoning. After years of dedicated conservation work, they have recovered and are a true success story. They are most commonly seen around bodies of water.

Bald Eagle Range Map

The reason that Bald Eagles are found around water is that they mostly eat fish! Look for them around marshes, lakes, coasts, and rivers. The BEST areas are forests near large bodies of water that provide good fishing AND tall trees for nesting sites.

Below, you can hear what a Bald Eagle sounds like. If you imagine an intimidating eagle call, then you would be wrong. I think they sound more like a gull, with trills and little whistles.

YouTube video

Press PLAY above to hear a Bald Eagle!


#18. Merlin

  • Falco columbarius

types of raptors

Length: 9-13 inches / 23-33 cm

Weight: 4.4-10.6 oz. / 125-300 g

Wingspan: 21-23 inches / 53-58 cm

Merlins are small, fierce raptors found in Florida.

With that being said, they are not that common to observe and are unpredictable in regard to their range. They are a bit larger than the American Kestrel, with a stockier build, sharply pointed wings, and medium-length tails. You can always identify a Merlin by its rapid wingbeats and because it is so small.

But despite its diminutive stature, this falcon is an incredibly fierce bird and uses surprise attacks to bring down its prey. It is so bold that it has been seen attacking trains and cars that enter its territory.

The Merlin is one bird you don’t want to annoy or make nervous!

Merlin Range Map

merlin range map

While generally silent, it’s possible to hear a loud, high cackle that sounds like “klee-klee-klee.” Typically, these calls are made during courtship or when showing aggression. Press the PLAY button above to hear an example.

YouTube video

#19. Turkey Vulture

  • Cathartes aura

common vultures

  • Length: 25-32 in / 64-81 cm
  • Weight: 2-5 lbs / 0.8-2.4 kg
  • Wingspan: 63-72 in / 160-183 cm

The Turkey Vulture is an incredibly common bird of prey in Florida.

In fact, it is the most abundant vulture in the entire country. They are relatively easy to identify, as they are all black, with a bald red head and a pinkish bill. The name derives from their loose resemblance to a Wild Turkey.

Turkey Vultures use their highly developed sense of smell to locate carrion. Their sense of smell is so sensitive that they can detect dead meat from 8 miles (13 km) away. These birds prefer to eat fresh food, and they try to get to animals as quickly as possible after their death.

Turkey Vulture Range Map

These birds are dark, and they absorb heat easily. To cool themselves off, they defecate on their legs to cool the blood and help them moderate their body temperature. Let’s collectively say “Ewww” and move on!

When these raptors are frightened, they can be so full of meat that they cannot rapidly fly away. In this case, you may see them projectile vomit what they’ve eaten to lose weight and escape. If they target the predator’s face, the material can be blinding.


#20. Black Vulture

  • Coragyps atratus

black vulture - common vulture species

  • Length: 22 – 29 in / 56 – 74 cm
  • Weight: 3.5 – 6.5 lbs / 1.6-3 kg
  • Wingspan: 51 – 66 in / 1.3 – 1.7 m

Black Vultures primarily eat carrion, but unlike most other vultures, they are known to kill animals to feed on fresh meat. It is not uncommon for them to prey on living skunks, opossums, and livestock, such as baby pigs, calves, and lambs.

Black Vultures are monogamous and will stay with their mate for many years. The loyal pair are excellent parents and will defend their nest, eggs, and young vigorously. Interestingly, these vultures build their nests on the ground in stumps, caves, thickets, brush piles, or hollow trees. No nesting material is used either!

Black Vulture Range Map

Look for Black Vultures in Florida in both forested and open areas. They prefer to roost and nest in dense forests but forage for food along roads, fields, and other open spaces. Black Vultures are commonly seen hanging around Turkey Vultures, and it’s not because they are best friends.

Between the two species, Turkey Vultures have a MUCH better sense of smell. Black Vultures use this fact to their advantage and follow Turkey Vultures to a carcass. Often, the more aggressive Black Vultures will chase away their vulture cousins to have the food all to themselves. I wonder if Turkey Vultures ever feel used? 🙂


#21. Crested Caracara

  • Caracara plancus

crested caracara

  • Length: 20–26 in / 50–65 cm
  • Weight: 2.9 lbs / 1.3 kg
  • Wingspan: 47–52 in / 120–132 cm

Crested Caracaras are incredibly unique. While they are technically falcons, most people think they look like hawks. But to make things more confusing, they act like vultures, as their primary food source is carrion. As a result, they are often seen scavenging on carcasses next to vultures.

caracara and vulture

As if you are not already confused about Crested Caracaras, one of the best places to find these birds of prey in Florida is ON THE GROUND, as they spend a lot of time here walking around. It is also fairly common for these falcons to run down live prey, which includes reptiles, insects, and small mammals.

Crested Caracaras are not that common in North America and are seen more often in Mexico and South America. But if you come across one, there is no other bird that looks similar!


#22. Swallow-tailed Kite

  • Elanoides forficatus

swallow tailed kite

  • Look for the deeply forked black tail and pointed wings flying in the sky.
  • Long and slender.
  • The white head and underparts contrast with the black back and tail.

These birds of prey are unmistakable when flying over Florida!

First, seeing the large forked tail is a dead giveaway that you’re watching a Swallow-tailed Kite. In addition, these raptors are incredibly acrobatic and perform all sorts of aerial turns, rolls, and dives!

Unfortunately, Swallow-tailed Kites are not in North America long. After a few months of raising their young during summer, they migrate back to South America for the winter.

Swallow-tailed Kite Range Map

swallow tailed kite range map

Interestingly, these white birds commonly eat insects that sting! They are known to bring entire wasps’ nests back to their nest for a feast.


#23. White-tailed Kite

  • Elanus leucurus

white tailed kite

  • A small raptor that has a white head. Pale grey on their back and shoulders.
  • White in flight, they are white underneath with black feathers appearing toward their wingtips.
  • As the name suggests, a long white tail.

The best places to find these raptors in Florida are near grasslands, marshes, or open woodlands. You’ll likely see them hunting for small mammals, lizards, or birds in the early morning.

White-tailed Kite Range Map

white tailed kite range map

White-tailed Kites have an incredibly distinct way of hunting. They face the wind while hovering in place while scanning for prey to eat! This behavior is so distinctive it has been nicknamed “kiting.” Check it out below!


Do you need help identifying raptors in Florida?

Here are a few books and resources you can purchase that will assist!


To learn more about other birds in Florida, check out these guides!


Which of these birds of prey have you seen before in Florida?

Leave a comment below!

Some of the range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

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