what birds of prey are in my area

California is a diverse state that provides wonderful habitat for a variety of raptors. There are over 30 different California birds of prey that you might see soaring up above, diving for a kill, or calling out into the night sky.

Birds of prey are a group of birds characterized by their predatory behavior and specialized adaptations for hunting. They are known for their exceptional eyesight, sharp talons, hooked beaks, and powerful flight capabilities, which enable them to efficiently capture and subdue their prey.

Birds of prey play important ecological roles as top predators in their ecosystems. They help regulate prey populations and maintain the overall balance of their habitats. They occupy diverse habitats in California, ranging from forests and grasslands to deserts and coastal areas. These birds exhibit a wide range of sizes, shapes, and hunting techniques.

Some common examples of birds of prey include eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, and harriers. These birds exhibit a wide range of sizes, shapes, and hunting techniques. They occupy diverse habitats in California, ranging from forests and grasslands to deserts and coastal areas.

Fully Protected Raptors

  • Coopers Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Osprey
  • Harris Hawk
  • Merlin
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Great-horned Owl
  • Barn Owl
  • Screech Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Turkey Vulture

34 California Birds of Prey You Might See in the Golden State

what birds of prey are in my area

The Bald Eagle is currently considered a species of least concern in California due to conservation efforts. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 forbids anyone from “taking” bald eagles, including their parts (including feathers), nests, or eggs, even though the species’ population is stable.

According to the California Depatment of Fish and Wildlife, “Bald Eagles are found 41 of the State’s 58 counties,” and, “about half of the State’s wintering bald eagles are found in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border, the location of the largest winter concentration of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states.”

In all, there are about 1,000 Bald Eagles in California. While some people live there year-round, the majority only visit California during the winter. November through March is the best time to see bald eagles because that’s when they breed and hatch new fledglings.

Bald Eagles are frequently sighted in Shasta Lake and Lake Almanor in Northern California, in addition to the Klamath Basin, because of the lakes’ large fish populations, which draw the eagles. On the eastern side of the Sierras, at Mono Lake, they are occasionally also sighted.

In recent years, bald eagles have returned to the San Francisco Bay Area. Lake Chabot in Castro Valley, Lake Berryessa in Napa County, and Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County are among the places where they can be seen.

In Southern California they are seen most often at Lake Perris, Lake Hemet, Lake Arrowhead, and Catalina Island. There is also a rather famous pair of Bald Eagles that live in Big Bear Lake which have a live bald eagle webcam dedicated to them. The Catalina Island pair has a live cam as well.

what birds of prey are in my area

what birds of prey are in my area

The white head and tail of adult bald eagles stand out against their dark brown body. They can weigh anywhere from 8 to 14 pounds and have a wingspan of about 6-7 feet.

Bald Eagles are primarily carnivores, consuming a diet primarily composed of fish like herring, trout, and salmon. But because they are opportunistic hunters, they will also consume carrion, small mammals, and birds. They can catch and tear their prey with their strong talons and sharp beaks.

Large bodies of water like rivers, lakes, coastal regions, and marshes are where they prefer to reside. In tall trees close to bodies of water, bald eagles construct enormous nests known as “aeries.” Bald Eagles are monogamous and typically mate for life.

Bald Eagles eggs take 35 days to hatch. Around three months of age is when hatchlings learn to fly, and four weeks later they fledge. They usually live 15–25 years in the wild after reaching full maturity at the age of 4-5.

Fun Fact: Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the turkey, but in 1782 the Bald Eagle was selected as the national bird and emblem of the United States. The Bald Eagle is frequently seen in American art, money, and official insignia. It can be seen on the Great Seal of the United States.

what birds of prey are in my area

what birds of prey are in my area

Conservation Status of This California Predator: The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 forbids anyone from “taking” golden eagles, including their parts (including feathers), nests, or eggs, despite the fact that the species has a stable population and is considered to be of least concern.

Although there are Golden Eagles all over the state, the Bay Area is home to the greatest number of Golden Eagles worldwide. There are more breeding pairs than anywhere else in the vicinity of Mount Diablo and the surrounding hillsides.

Unfortunately, wind turbines in the area have had a harmful impact on these majestic birds of prey. According to the California Audubon Society, “Thousands of Eagles have been maimed, injured, and killed by the turbines used to generate wind energy, particularly in Altamont Pass.”

Although some Golden Eagles migrate to California for the winter, the majority of them live there year-round. Apart from their vast population in the Bay Area, Golden Eagles are found all over the state in oak woodlands, grasslands, canyons, and forests. They aren’t seen much in the Central Valley.

It’s interesting to note that the presence of feral pigs, deer, and the endemic Channel Islands fox allowed golden eagles to establish breeding populations on the islands by providing a convenient food source. As a result, the fox population saw a catastrophic decline that almost drove them extinct.

From 1999 to 2006, the National Park Service decided to live trap and move the Golden Eagles. Ten eaglets born on the islands were among the forty-four Golden Eagles that were trapped and relocated. Since none have come back, the number of foxes has increased.

what birds of prey are in my area

what birds of prey are in my area

One of the biggest predatory birds in North America is the golden eagle. They have a wingspan of about 6 to 7. 5 feet and can weigh between 7 to 15 pounds . Adults have golden-colored head and neck feathers and dark brown feathers covering their body and wings.

The main prey for golden eagles is small to medium-sized mammals like marmots, ground squirrels, and rabbits. They have also been observed to feed on larger birds, such as swans and cranes, as well as waterfowl. On rare occasions, they might even catch larger prey like deer or sheep or scavenge on carrion.

As expert hunters, golden eagles capture and kill their prey with their powerful beaks and sharp talons. They frequently soar high in the sky and then dive quickly to capture their prey. They are renowned for their amazing speed and agility in flight.

With the exception of the breeding season, when pairs get together to raise their young, they are solitary birds. They do mate for life.

Golden Eagles are known for building huge nests. Typically, they are three feet deep and five to six feet wide. Though they can also be built on trees, windmills, and even transmission towers, they are most frequently found on cliffs. They typically stay in more untamed areas with plenty of prey rather than in cities.

The incubation period for the 1-3 eggs laid by female golden eagles is approximately 45 days. After hatching, eaglets fledge after 7 to 10 weeks, and about 80 days later, juveniles are no longer dependent on their parents. They typically live 25–30 years after reaching maturity at the age of 4.

22. Great Horned Owl

what birds of prey are in my area

what birds of prey are in my area

The Great Horned Owl is a species of least concern with regards to conservation. It is a bird of prey native to California.

Due to their high degree of adaptability, great horned owls can be found in a variety of environments, such as wetlands, grasslands, forests, deserts, and urban areas. Because they need perches for hunting and nesting, they can be found in both open habitats with strewn trees and dense forests.

There range is basically all over California. I live in a suburban area of Orange County, and our neighborhood is home to a Great Horned Owl that is frequently heard making nighttime calls. Finding him on the roof of one of the houses in our cul-de-sac is always a pleasant sight.

what birds of prey are in my area

what birds of prey are in my area

The Great Horned Owl is a large owl with eye-catching yellow eyes and noticeable ear tufts. One of the most common and tolerant owl species in North America, it inhabits a range of habitats in California.

Its body length is approximately 18 to 25 inches, and its wingspan is approximately 3 to 5 feet. They weigh 2-4 pounds. On their heads, they have noticeable ear tufts, or “horns,” which are actually tufts of feathers rather than real horns.

Their mottled plumage, which ranges in color from grayish-brown to reddish-brown, helps them blend in well with their woodland surroundings. Their facial disk aids in directing sound toward their ears.

Their characteristic hooting call is “hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo,” with the final note being longer and lower.

The diet of Great Horned Owls is varied and they are opportunistic predators. They kill rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, and voles with their razor-sharp beaks and talons. They also feed on a variety of birds, such as songbirds, waterfowl, other owls, and sometimes even larger species like raptors or herons. They may also feed on reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Usually, great horned owls establish lifelong pair bonds and mate for life. They construct their nests on the ground, in tree cavities, or on tree branches. They have a reputation for occupying large birds’ abandoned nests, including those of crows and hawks.

The mother lays one to four eggs, and both parents help to incubate the eggs and raise the offspring. After about a month, the chicks, called owlets, hatch and spend several months with their parents before learning to live on their own. Threach maturity after 2-3 years and live for 15-20 years.


What is the hovering bird of prey in California?

White-tailed kites are named for their unique hunting behavior. These raptors will hover about 80 ft above ground and then drop nearly vertical down onto their prey.

Can a hawk pick up a 10 lb dog?

Being meat eaters, hawks can and sometimes do prey on pets. Given their carrying capacity, small pets under about five pounds are the only ones at risk. If you have a puppy or small adult dog, keep it under careful supervision while outside.

What bird is mistaken for a hawk?

From a distance a soaring Turkey Vulture might look like a Red-tailed Hawk, but Turkey Vultures have longer, more rectangular wings, which the birds hold above horizontal, forming an easily visible V. Turkey Vultures are also much less steady when they soar.

What is the most common hawk in San Diego?

Red-tailed hawks are common in San Diego County and throughout North America, whether perched on a pole, soaring overhead, or just a distant, high-pitched “kkeeer…” heard from beyond the trees. These raptors, or birds of prey, have keen eyesight, binocular vision, powerful talons for grabbing prey, and a sharp beak.