Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (2024)

Birds of Prey in Texas encompass a diverse and captivating group of raptors that thrive within the state’s vast and varied landscapes. Texas provides a haven for these remarkable avian predators. Texas offers abundant opportunities for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to witness the grace, power, and natural beauty of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

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Texas Birds of Prey Types

Bird’s NameSizeFrequency in TexasBest Place to Spot in TexasBest Viewing Season
Red-tailed HawkLargeVery CommonThroughout TexasAll year
American KestrelSmallVery CommonOpen fields and grasslandsAll year
Bald EagleLargeCommonNear lakes and riversAll year
Cooper’s HawkMediumCommonWoodlands and urban areasAll year
Broad-winged HawkMediumUncommonWoodlandsSpring – Autumn
Sharp-shinned HawkSmallUncommonMixed forest areasAutumn – Spring
OspreyLargeUncommonNear lakes and riversSpring – Autumn
Peregrine FalconMediumUncommonUrban areas and cliffsSpring – Autumn
Turkey VultureLargeVery CommonThroughout TexasAll year
Black VultureLargeVery CommonThroughout TexasAll year
Great Horned OwlMediumCommonWoodlandsAll year
Barred OwlMediumCommonWoodlandsAll year
Eastern Screech-OwlSmallCommonWoodlands and urban areasAll year
Northern Saw-whet OwlSmallRareDense coniferous forestsAutumn – Spring
Short-eared OwlMediumRareOpen fields and marshesWinter
Mississippi KiteMediumUncommonForest edges and open areasSpring – Autumn
Swainson’s HawkMediumCommonOpen plains and agricultural fieldsSpring – Autumn
Northern HarrierMediumCommonOpen fields and wetlandsAutumn – Spring
Golden EagleLargeUncommonOpen mountainous regionsAutumn – Spring
Ferruginous HawkLargeUncommonOpen grasslandsWinter
Harris’s HawkMediumCommonDesert and scrub habitatsAll year
White-tailed HawkLargeCommonOpen grasslands and fieldsAll year
Crested CaracaraLargeCommonOpen fields and roadwaysAll year
Burrowing OwlSmallCommonOpen grasslands with burrowsAll year
Red-shouldered HawkMediumCommonWoodlandsAll year

When it comes to hawks in Texas, you get some other rare visitors such as the zone-tailed hawk and the rough-legged hawk – see here for a complete guide to Texas hawks.

Birds of Prey in Texas Photo Guides

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

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The Red-tailed Hawk is a large bird of prey that is commonly found across North America. This species is part of the genus Buteo, which is often referred to as the “true hawks,” and includes more than two dozen species of raptors.

Red-tailed Hawks have a robust size, ranging from 18 to 26 inches in length and sporting a wingspan that can exceed 4 feet. They have a broad, rounded set of wings and a short, wide red tail. This species is most easily recognized by its rich, rust-colored tail, which gives it its common name. However, juvenile hawks might not yet have this distinctive feature.

Their feathers are generally dark brown on their dorsal side (back) with a lighter, often speckled, ventral side (front). The intensity and pattern of their plumage can vary significantly based on their age and geographic location, as there are about 14 recognized subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks.

As for their diet, Red-tailed Hawks are carnivores and have a broad diet that includes rodents, ground rabbits, reptiles, and other birds. They are skilled hunters that typically sit on high perches and use their keen eyesight to spot potential prey. Once they have identified a target, they swoop down to capture it with their powerful talons.

Red-tailed Hawks mate for life and build nests high off the ground, often in tall trees or on cliff edges. Their nests are made of sticks and can be quite large. They typically lay 1-3 eggs per year, which are incubated by both parents.

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Red-tailed Hawk Sound

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (4)

American Kestrel Sound

Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Length: 8.7 to 12.2in

Wingspan: 20–24in

Weight: 3.0–5.8oz

The American Kestrel, often recognized as the smallest and most brightly colored falcon in North America, exhibits a stunning array of rufous, blue and gray hues in its plumage. This bird, ranging in size from a mere 22 to 31 cm, carries distinct black facial markings that contrast with its white cheeks and has blue gray wings. Despite its small stature, the American Kestrel is a formidable predator, employing a unique hunting strategy that involves hovering at a height before swooping down on prey, primarily consisting of insects, small mammals, and occasionally small birds.

Residing predominantly in North and South America, the American Kestrel exhibits a preference for open habitats such as meadows, grasslands, and deserts. They are also found in both urban and suburban environments, nesting in cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings, and other structures. Kestrels are monogamous, with both sexes participating in the courtship displays that involve aerial acrobatics and feeding rituals. Nesting duties are a shared responsibility, with the male initially scouting for suitable locations and the female making the final selection. Both parents contribute to the incubation of the eggs and care of the young, ensuring the perpetuation of this captivating species.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (6)

Bald Eagle Sound

Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Length: 28–40 in

Wingspan: 5ft 11in and 7ft 7in

Weight: 6.6 -13.9lb

The Bald Eagle, primarily found in Canada and Alaska, is instantly identifiable by its white head, dark brown body, yellow beak, and a piercing cry. Its sharp, orange-yellow eyes aid in efficient night hunting.

Predominantly residing in North America, occasionally venturing into Asia and Europe, it thrives near water bodies. It perches atop trees, providing a bird’s-eye view of its prey. It feeds on fish, carrion, small mammals like rabbits and squirrels, and reptiles. Hunting involves a swift downward swoop to seize the prey, carrying it back to the nest.

Bald Eagles are monogamous, forming lifelong pairings. They construct vast nests from sticks, lined with moss or grasses. They typically lay 1-3 eggs annually, which hatch around 35 days later. The fledglings leave the nest roughly 6 weeks after hatching, but continue to rely on their parents for nourishment for a further 5-6 months, until they become proficient hunters.

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (8)

Listen:

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey native to North America. Known for its agility and speed, it is part of the Accipitridae hawk species, which also includes other hawks, eagles, and kites.

Cooper’s Hawks are typically about 14 to 20 inches in length, with a wingspan ranging from 27 to 36 inches. They are known for their distinctive long, rounded tails and short, rounded wings. They have a steely blue gray top, with rusty bars on their underparts and thick, dark bands on their tails.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a skilled predator, primarily hunting birds and small mammals. They are adept at hunting in both dense forests and open areas, often catching prey mid-air in high-speed pursuits. They have also been known to visit the backyard bird feeder, not for the seed, but to prey on the smaller birds that gather there.

Cooper’s Hawks often build nests in dense tree canopies where they are well concealed. The female usually lays 3 to 5 eggs, and both parents share incubation duties. The young hawks fledge after about a month but will stay close to the nest, relying on their parents for food as they learn to hunt.

Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (10)

Broad-winged Hawk Sound

The Broad-winged Hawk holds a commanding presence as one of the largest hawks in the world, known for its broad wings. Its formidable size is a testament to its prowess as a bird of prey, effortlessly navigating the open skies in search of food.

Their distinctive appearance sets them apart. The adults exhibit a striking black and white pattern, complemented by a rusty breast and buff underparts and brown wings. In contrast, juveniles are adorned with a brown plumage, marked by pale edges on their feathers, adding to their distinctive youthful charm.

These hawks are most commonly found in open areas, such as farmlands or grasslands interspersed with scattered trees, which provide optimal conditions for when hawks hunt.

When it comes to their diet, Broad-winged Hawks feed on small rodents like mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, and voles. Broad winged hawks breed during the spring and summer months then migrate to central and south America.

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (12)

Listen:

The adult bird is brown on top and white underneath, with a dark brown band across its chest. It has short, rounded wings and a long tail that makes it look larger than it actually is. Adult sharp shinned hawks have black eyes, which are surrounded by white feathers. The female Sharp-shinned Hawk is browner than the male, who has darker brown markings on his back.

Sharp-shinned Hawks prefer open country for their habitat, including fields and meadows where they can hunt for mice and other small animals. They can be found throughout the United States but are most common in the east.

Sharp-shinned Hawks eat mostly small birds, such as sparrows and warblers, as well as small mammals such as mice and gophers. They catch prey by surprise using their incredible speed and agility, diving out of the sky at speeds up to 200 mph.

Sharp-shinned Hawks have an unusual hunting style for hawks—they prefer to catch their prey from perches above trees or telephone wires, rather than swooping down from above like most other hawks do and can often be seen hunting near bird feeders.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (14)

Osprey Sound

Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Length: 50–66 cm (19+1⁄2–26 in)

Wingspan: 127–180 cm (50–71 in)

Weight: 0.9–2.1 kg (2 lb 0 oz – 4 lb 10 oz)

The Osprey, a fascinating bird of prey, is universally known for its exceptional hunting prowess and striking physical characteristics. Osprey are dark brown hawks on the upperparts, contrasting beautifully with the predominantly white underparts, and a distinctive dark band that stretches across the eyes towards the sides of its head.

Equipped with specialized talons and a reversible outer toe, the Osprey’s hunting strategy involves a spectacular plunge-dive into bodies of water, often emerging with a fish securely gripped in its claws.

Found on every continent except Antarctica, the Osprey is a cosmopolitan species favoring habitats near water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, reflecting its piscivorous diet. This bird has a diet almost exclusively of fish, making it a unique member of the raptor family and often referred to as the sea hawk or fish hawk. They locate their prey from the air, often hovering before plunging feet-first to capture a fish. When it comes to breeding, Ospreys are monogamous, often mating for life.

They construct large, bulky nests made of sticks, lined with softer materials, and prefer elevated or isolated areas such as treetops or artificial structures like utility poles. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (16)

Peregrine Falcon Sound

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

Length: 14.2-19.3 in

Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in

Weight: 530-1600 g

Known for its blue-gray plumage and unique cheek bars, the Peregrine Falcon stands as a beacon of power and swiftness. Despite its modest size, it reigns as the world’s fastest creature, reaching staggering speeds up to 240 mph during hunting dives.

Its diet mainly includes birds, occasionally bats, caught in an enthralling aerial display of agility and precision. Adapting to diverse habitats, this bird graces every continent except Antarctica, finding home in environments from city skyscrapers to towering cliffs.

Peregrine Falcons, monogamous in nature, often pair for life, expressing their bonds through complex courtship flights filled with intricate aerial maneuvers. They construct simple scrape nests on high ledges, often without adding materials.

Their parenting duties are shared, from egg incubation to feeding and caring for the chicks, ensuring their offspring are ready to take on the skies in their own time.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (18)

Turkey Vulture Sound

Scientific Name: Cathartes aura

Length: 24–32 in

Wingspan: 63–72 in

Weight: 1.8 to 5.3 lb

Turkey vultures are large birds that are easily recognizable by their bald heads, which are black in coloration, and by the patch of red skin below their beaks. It is white with black spots on the wings and tail. It has a bald head and a hooked beak that is black in coloration.

Turkey vultures live in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. They can be found in deserts, grasslands, forests and swamps. Turkey vultures are found throughout North America and parts of Central America and South America. In the U.S., they can be found across the country, but most commonly in the southwest region.

Turkey vultures eat carrion—dead animals’ remains such as dead deer, sheep, cows, horses and other large mammals that have been killed by other predators, such as coyotes or foxes. They do not hunt live prey.

The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (20)

Black Vulture Sound

Scientific Name: Coragyps atratus

Length: 22–29 in

Wingspan: 52–66 in

Weight: 3.5 to 6.6 lb

The Black Vulture is easily recognizable by their black plumage, short, square tail, and their bald black head.

These birds are scavengers and play a vital role in the ecosystem by feeding primarily on carrion (dead animals). They are known to occasionally kill smaller, weakened animals, but such behavior is not the norm. Black Vultures locate food using their excellent sense of sight and by following other vultures.

Unlike most birds, Black Vultures are not known to build traditional nests. Instead, they lay their eggs in sheltered areas like hollow trees, abandoned buildings, or thickets. They typically lay two eggs, and both parents will incubate and care for the chicks.

Black Vultures are social birds that are often seen in large groups. They roost together in large numbers and are known to even forage in groups. They can often be seen soaring on thermals during the day, hardly flapping their wings, while looking for food.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (22)

Great Horned Owl Sound

Scientific Name:Bubo virginianus

Length: 18.1-24.8 in

Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in

Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz

The Great Horned Owl is a large owl with long wings and a large head. It’s one of the most common owls in North America.

Great Horned Owls are large, stocky birds with soft feathers that are gray to brown on their backs and white on their chests. Their faces are characterized by two black “ear” tufts, which can be raised or flattened depending on the owl’s mood. The eyes are yellow, orange, or red in color.

The habitat of the Great Horned Owl is a variety of different environments such as forests and deserts. They also live near water sources such as lakes, streams and rivers where they can hunt for fish.

The diet of the Great Horned Owl consists primarily of small mammals such as mice and rats; however they will also eat other rodents such as squirrels, rabbits and porcupines. They have been known to eat skunks too.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (24)

Barred Owl Sound

Scientific Name: Strix varia

Length: 40 to 63cm (16 to 25in)

Wingspan: 96 to 125cm (38 to 49in)

Weight: 468 to 1,150g

The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl with a barred pattern on its chest and belly. They have large yellow eyes that allow them to see well in low light conditions. Their ears are not very large which means they do not hear very well but they have excellent hearing abilities which allow them to detect sounds up to 1 mile away. Their feathers are brown and streaked with white, and they have black bars on their chests and wings.

Their habitats include forests, woodlands, orchards, parks, farmland and suburban backyards.

Barred Owls (also known as hoot owl) eat small mammals such as mice, rats and squirrels. They also eat insects such as beetles or grasshoppers. These owls hunt during the day when it is light out so that they can see their prey better than at night when they would be using senses other than sight like sound or smell to find their food source.

Barred owls are monogamous birds which means they mate for life. They build nests in trees or cavities on the ground and lay 2-4 eggs per year. The incubation period for these eggs lasts about 28 days before hatching takes place.

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (26)

Eastern Screech-Owl Sound

Scientific Name: Megascops asio

Length: 6to 10in

Wingspan: 8 to 24in

Weight: 4 – 8.5oz

The Eastern Screech-Owl is a small owl species native to most wooded environments of the eastern half of North America, from the Canadian provinces to Florida and Texas.

Eastern Screech-Owls are relatively small and exhibit a complex pattern of gray or reddish-brown coloration, which provides excellent camouflage against tree bark.

These owls are known for their distinctive call, which is often described as a haunting trill or a whinny-like sound. Despite their name, they do not actually produce a “screech.”

Eastern Screech-Owls feed on a variety of prey, ranging from small mammals and birds to insects and even earthworms. It is primarily nocturnal, hunting at night from a low perch and swooping down onto prey.

Eastern Screech-Owls nest in tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker nests, but they readily adapt to nesting boxes where natural cavities are not available. They typically lay between 2 to 6 eggs, which are incubated primarily by the female.

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (28)

Northern Saw-whet Owl Sound

Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus

Length: 17–22cm (6.7–8.7in)

Wingspan: 42–56.3cm (16.5–22.2in)

Weight: 54 to 151g (1.9 to 5.3oz)

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a tiny, speckled gray owl and it’s one of the smallest owls in North America. It’s also known as the Little Owl or Wood Owl in some areas.

Northern Saw-whet Owls have dark brown eyes, white eyebrows, and yellow beak. It has brownish-grey feathers that are spotted with white. The owl’s legs are covered in feathers and appear nearly invisible when the bird is perched on a branch or tree.

In the winter they migrate south to warmer climates. They prefer to live in dense coniferous forest with large trees but will occasionally nest in shrubs or other vegetation that can protect them from predators.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl eats mice and voles (small rodents), small birds, frogs, salamanders, moles and shrews, but unlike most owls they chop their prey up and spread over a few meals. They will also eat insects like beetles and grasshoppers if they are available. It hunts from a perch at night using its excellent hearing to locate prey items within about 30 feet (9 meters) of its nest.

These owls nest in tree cavities usually located close to water sources such as lakes or rivers where they can find their food source (insects). They lay 2-4 eggs at one time which incubate for about 30 days before hatching.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (30)

Short-eared Owl Sound

Scientific Name: Asio flammeus

Length: 13–17in

Wingspan: 33 to 43in

Weight: 7.3–16.8oz

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl species with a wide distribution, found across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and many Pacific islands. Despite its name, the “ears” of the Short-eared Owl are not often visible, as they are small and tend to blend with the bird’s feathers.

The owls are predominantly brown with buff and white accents throughout their body and wings, and dark patches around their yellow eyes.

Short-eared Owls diet consists largely of small mammals, especially voles. However, they are opportunistic hunters and will also prey on a variety of other animals, including other birds, when available.

Their habitat is characterized by open areas like grasslands, marshes, and tundra. They nest on the ground, which is unusual for owls, and this makes them vulnerable to ground predators. As such, they often live in areas with tall grasses or other ground cover for protection.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (32)

Mississippi Kite Sound

Scientific Name: Ictinia mississippiensis

Length: 12 to 15 inches (30–37 cm)

Wingspan: 3 feet (91cm)

Weight: 214 to 388grams (7.6–13.7oz)

The Mississippi kite is a medium-sized bird of prey native to North America. It has a white belly and chest, with brown wings and tail and pointed wings. They have a black mask on their face, and the males have blue markings on their wings.

The Mississippi kites habitat is open grassland, including prairies, pastures, and meadows. It can also be found in wetlands such as marshes and swamps. It prefers warmer climates but can survive in cooler regions if there are many trees nearby that provide nesting sites.

The diet of these birds consists mostly of insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and dragonflies. They also eat small rodents that they catch while flying over fields or while perched on tall trees or telephone poles.

The Mississippis kite nest looks like a shallow bowl built with sticks, twigs and grasses. They lay between 2-5 eggs per year, which take about two weeks to hatch into chicks that fledge after two months. The breeding season for Mississippi Kites typically occurs from May to July

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (34)

Listen: Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is found in North America and South America, Scientific Name: Buteo swainsoni.

The bird has a blue-gray plumage with a dark brown back, wings, and tail. It also has a white chest and belly. The beak and feet are black, but the eyes are yellow. They are often confused with Cooper’s Hawk because of similar coloring, but Swainson’s Hawks have wider tails and longer wings than their cousin species.

These birds eat small rodents such as gophers and mice. They also eat insects like grasshoppers and crickets during the summer months when they’re plentiful. They sometimes steal prey from other birds of prey such as Northern Harriers who hunt the same prey.

Swainson’s Hawks build nests on rocky cliffs near water sources where they can find food easily. They lay three to five eggs that hatch after about two months into fluffy brown baby hawks who leave the nest after about three weeks (or when they’re big enough).

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (36)

Listen:

The Northern Harrier is a medium-sized, slender hawk.

Adult birds are gray above, with pale bars on the wing feathers and white markings on the underwings and a white rump patch. The breast is barred with black and white, and the belly is streaked with brown.

They prefer open areas, such as grasslands and marshes, but can be found in almost any open habitat except dense woods.

Northern Harriers are opportunistic hunters that feed on small mammals such as mice, voles and rabbits as well as birds including quail, grouse and ducks. They hunt by flying low over open spaces such as fields or marshes.

Northern harrier nests on the ground in lowlands or hillsides near water bodies. It lays two to four eggs which hatch after 24 days of incubation by both parents. The chicks fledge after 30 days of hatching and remain dependent on their parents for another three weeks during which they learn how to fly.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (38)

Golden Eagle Sound

Scientific Name:Aquila chrysaetos

Length: 26 to 40 in

Wingspan: 5ft 11in to 7ft 8in

Weight: 8.9 and 14.0lb

The Golden Eagle is a large bird of prey known for its strength, speed, and hunting prowess.

Adult Golden Eagles are large birds, and are named for the golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks, which contrasts with their darker brown body feathers. Their eyes, legs, and bill are all yellow.

These eagles prefer open, rugged terrain, including mountains, hills, grasslands, and deserts. They are most often found in areas that provide good opportunities for soaring and hunting.

Golden Eagles have a varied diet but primarily prey on small to medium-sized mammals such as rabbits, hares, and ground squirrels. They are also capable of taking larger prey, like young deer or livestock, but these are not typically part of their diet.

Golden Eagles build large nests or eyries, usually on cliffs or in tall trees. The nests are often reused and added to each year, becoming enormous structures over time. The female typically lays 1 to 4 eggs, which both parents incubate.

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (40)

Ferruginous Hawk Sound

Scientific Name: Buteo regalis

Length: 20 to 27in

Wingspan: 48 to 60in

Weight: 32.0 to 80.0oz

The Ferruginous Hawkis the largest hawk species native to North America. Known for its distinctive coloration and impressive size, this bird of prey predominantly inhabits the open landscapes of the western United States and parts of Canada.

Ferruginous Hawks are notable for their “ferruginous” or rust-colored back and shoulders, which contrasts sharply with the bird’s white underside. The hawk also has broad, rounded wings and a large, gape-mouthed beak. Ferruginous hawks exhibit dark morph and light morphs. Dark morphs have dark brown plumage, while light morphs display lighter, reddish-brown plumage. Morphs vary geographically.

Primarily feeding on small to medium sized mammals like rabbits and prairie dogs, the Ferruginous Hawk is an agile hunter, often seen soaring high above the ground or perched prominently while scanning for prey. It occasionally feeds on birds, reptiles, and insects as well.

Nesting for Ferruginous Hawks typically occurs on cliffs, hillsides, or large trees. The female lays between 2 to 5 eggs, and both parents share in the incubation and rearing of the chicks. The Ferruginous Hawk is a relatively solitary bird outside of the breeding season, and its call is a loud, high-pitched scream, often heard during courtship or near the nest.

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Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (42)

Harris’s Hawk Sound

Scientific Name: Parabuteo unicinctus

Length: 18 to 23in

Wingspan: 41 to 47 in

Weight: 1.2 to 3.6lb

The Harris’s Hawk is a unique bird of prey, recognized by its distinct social behavior and richly colored plumage. This raptor prefers semi-arid habitats like desert scrub, woodlands, and savannas.

Harris’s Hawk sports a dark brown or chestnut-brown body, with striking reddish-brown shoulders and legs. A characteristic feature of this bird is its white-tipped tail, along with a white band on the underside of its tail feathers.

Harris’s Hawks diet mainly consists of small mammals, birds, and lizards. One of the unique behavioral traits of this species is that it often hunts cooperatively in groups, a rarity among raptors. This group hunting strategy often involves surrounding and flushing out prey, or taking turns chasing it, which increases the likelihood of a successful hunt. Harris’s Hawk also engage in “stacking,” where they perch on top of each other, which is a behavior rarely seen in birds of prey.

Nesting for Harris’s Hawks involves the building of a platform of sticks in a tree or cactus, where the female usually lays 2 to 4 eggs. Both parents share in the incubation and rearing of the chicks, with sometimes even older offspring assisting in the process.

White-tailed Hawk (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)

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The white-tailed hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey found in North America. It is one of the most common hawks on the continent, and it is often seen soaring high above the ground on its long wings.

  • Scientific Name: Geranoaetus albicaudatus
  • Length: 44–60 cm (17–24 in)
  • Wingspan: 118–143cm (46–56in)
  • Weight: 880–1,240g (1.94–2.73lb)

White-tailed Hawk Description

The white-tailed hawk has a large body and broad wings, with a tail that is mostly white with black bars. The head is grayish-brown, and there are white streaks above the eyes. The breast is grayish, while the belly is brownish-gray. The feathers on the back are dark brown with pale edges. The underwing coverts are white with brown tips. The white-tailed hawk has a black bill and brown legs. The eyes are yellow or orange with red orbital rings.

White-tailed Hawk Sound

White-tailed Hawk Habitat & Range

White-tailed hawks live in open country, including fields, deserts, grasslands, and even mountains. They like flat areas to hunt from so they can see their prey from far away. It can be found as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico.

Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (44)

White-tailed Hawk Diet

White-tailed hawks eat small animals like mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, birds (including chickens), reptiles (like snakes), amphibians (like frogs or toads), insects like grasshoppers and beetles as well as carrion (dead animals) such as road-killed deer or raccoons.

White-tailed Hawk Nesting

The White-tailed Hawk nests in tree cavities or on the ground, depending on the location. The female lays two eggs at a time and incubates them while the male hunts for food. After about two months, the eggs hatch and both parents take turns feeding their young until they are old enough to leave the nest on their own.

Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)

Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (45)
Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (46)

Crested Caracara Sound

Scientific Name: Caracara plancus

Length: 20-26in

Wingspan: 47 – 52in

Weight: 2-3.5lbs

The Crested Caracara is a medium-sized bird with a long, heavy body. They are mostly brown in color and have a dark brown or blackish crown, nape, and upper back. The wings and tail are grayish brown and the underparts are white. The bill is pinkish gray and the legs are gray.

Caracaras feed on small animals including reptiles, amphibians and insects that they find on the floor of forest areas where they live. They will also eat fruit if it is available but this is not their preferred food but for survival during times when other sources are scarce. They’re very good at finding food because they have very good eyesight and hearing abilities.

The Crested Caracara is known for its unique behavior when it comes to raising young. Rather than building nests themselves, they will steal from other birds—like hummingbirds or smaller raptors—and then make their own nest out of stolen materials. They also have strong claws that allow them to tear apart eggshells with ease so they can get at the eggs inside them.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (47)
Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (48)

Burrowing Owl Sound

Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia

Length: 7–11in

Wingspan: 20–24in

Weight:5–8oz

The Burrowing Owl is a small, long-legged species of owl found in North and South America. Known for its unusual habit of living in burrows in the ground.

Burrowing Owls have a rounded head with no ear tufts and bright yellow eyes. Their overall coloration is mottled brown and white with a distinct white “eyebrow” above each eye.

Their primary habitat includes open landscapes such as grasslands, deserts, agricultural areas, golf courses, and even airports. As their name suggests, these owls often reside in burrows, many of which are abandoned by prairie dogs, ground squirrels, or other burrowing animals. In some cases, they may also dig their own burrows.

Burrowing Owls diet consists mainly of small mammals and insects, but they also eat birds and reptiles.

Burrowing Owls have a unique nesting behavior. They lay their eggs in an underground burrow to protect them from predators and extreme weather. Clutch sizes range from 6 to 11 eggs, which are incubated for about a month before hatching.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (49)
Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (50)

Listen:

The red-shouldered hawk are medium sized birds of prey, part of the buteo hawks family. It can be distinguished from other hawks by its reddish iris and pale legs.

The adult has rusty red upperparts, white underparts, a black chin and throat, and a reddish brown stripe over each eye, reddish brown heads and a strongly banded tail. The tail is reddish brown with two paler bands across it and they have white checkered wings. Juveniles are brown with dark barring and have pale fringes on the feathers of their wings.

Red-shouldered hawks nest in trees, though they also inhabit manmade structures including barns, bridges, and buildings. They prefer wooded areas with an open canopy but will use other places as well for nesting such as shrubs and hedges if needed.

The red-shouldered hawk’s diet – they eat small mammals such as ground squirrels, rabbits, voles, mice and rats. They also eat birds such as quail, pigeons and doves; reptiles including snakes; amphibians; fish; crustaceans; insects; and carrion (dead animals).

Where to Spot Texas’s Birds of Prey

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge: Located in southern Texas near the Gulf Coast, this refuge is home to a wide variety of birds of prey, including Crested Caracaras, Harris’s Hawks, and Red-tailed Hawks. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, especially during the winter months.

Big Bend National Park: This vast national park in the southwestern corner of the state is an excellent place to observe a variety of raptors, including Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Red-tailed Hawks, which thrive in its diverse desert, mountain, and river habitats.

Hawk Watch in Corpus Christi: During the autumn migration (mid-August to mid-November), this is one of the best places in North America to observe migrating raptors. Many species, including Peregrine Falcons, Broad-winged Hawks, and Swainson’s Hawks, can be seen in large numbers.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: Located on the Gulf Coast, this refuge is best known for its population of wintering Whooping Cranes, but it also hosts a variety of raptors such as Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Crested Caracaras.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge: Located in central Texas, this refuge provides habitat for two endangered migratory birds – the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, but it is also a great spot to see a diversity of raptors, including Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and American Kestrels.

The Lone Star State’s varied habitats are a haven for numerous birds of prey. Experience the untamed beauty embodied by New Mexico’s Feathered Predators. Head north to Oklahoma’s birds of prey, where the Skyborne Hunters resonate with the Sooner State’s natural charm. To the east, Louisiana’s Winged Warriors echo the Bayou State’s diverse ecosystems. Delve into these birds further with our in-depth Guide to Raptors.

Birds of Prey in Texas (25 Common + Photo Guide) - Birds & Wetlands (2024)

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