Georgia is a gorgeous state that features a wide variety of natural terrains, which effectively makes it an attractive home to a broad range of wildlife from coyotes, black bears, and rattlesnakes, to foxes, alligators, and sea turtles.
When it comes to birds, Georgia doesn’t disappoint. It includes 427 species of birds approved and documented by the Checklist and Records Committee of the Georgia Ornithological Society (GOSRC) as of August 2020.
If you live in the Peach State or you’re visiting it, and you’re curious about the types of owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, and other birds of prey you can commonly spot out there, then you’ve come to the right place!
In today’s guide, we’re sharing facts and descriptions of Georgia birds of prey to help you better find and recognize them. Let’s jump in!
Top 14 Most Common Georgia Birds of Prey
1. Red-tailed Hawk
The most common Georgia bird of prey is the Red-tailed Hawk. Also called Buteo jamaicensis in the scientific scene, Red-tailed Hawks measure between 17.7 and 25.6 inches (45 and 65 cm) long. They weigh about 24.3 to 51.5 ounces (690 to 1460 g) and have a wingspan ranging from 44.9 to 52.4 inches (114 to 133 cm).
Red-tailed Hawks possess big bodies, wide, short tails, and very wide, rounded wings. These raptors are the second-largest member of the Buteo family throughout North America (the first place goes to the Ferruginous Hawk).
Author Note: Most Red-tailed Hawks possess bright brown heads and backs with light-colored undersides and streaked bellies. Adults show off cinnamon-red tails, which is where the name comes from.
Mainly feeding on rodents, you’re likely to spot Red-tailed Hawks flying high in circles over a field. They prefer open spaces and you can commonly see them in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk, also known as Accipiter cooperii, weigh between 7.8 to 24.0 ounces (220 to 680 g) and their wingspan ranges from 24.4 to 35.4 inches (62 to 90 cm).
The males are 14.6 to 15.3 inches (37 to 39 cm) long, whereas the females measure 16.5 to 17.7 inches (42 to 45 cm) long.
Cooper’s Hawks feature the classic appearance of accipiters, featuring wide, rounded wings with a long tail. Their bodies are steely blue-grey on top with dark bars on the tail and wings and reddish-brown streaks on the belly and chest.
Cooper’s Hawks fly in a flap-flap-glide pattern. They inhabit wooded areas and can be commonly spotted in the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, and the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area.
3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
Scientifically known as Accipiter striatus, the Sharp-shinned Hawk measures 9.4 to 13.4 inches (24 to 34 cm) long, weighs 3.1 to 7.7 ounces (87 to 218 g), and has a wingspan extending between16.9 to 22.1 inches (43 to 56 cm).
Sharp-shinned Hawks are one of the smallest raptors in Georgia. They possess long tails, short, rounded wings, as well as small heads that often don’t extend beyond the wings’ “wrists” while flying.
Adults are blue-grey on top with thin, horizontal reddish-orange streaks on the chest and belly. Sharp-shinned Hawks like to stay at forest edges, but they move to deep forests during the breeding season.
The best spots to catch sight of this raptor include the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
4. Red-shouldered Hawk
The Red-shouldered Hawk, scientifically referred to as Buteo lineatus, measures about 16.9 to 24.0 inches (43 to 61 cm) and weighsabout 17.1 to 27.3 ounces (486 to 774 g). It has a wingspan ranging from 37.0 to 43.7 inches (94 to 111 cm).
This raptor is smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk but larger than a Broad-winged Hawk. Its plumage is mostly black and white with a copper-red patch on the shoulder and reddish streaks on the underside.
Red-shouldered Hawks show a distinctive “reaching” pose in flight and make a unique kee-rah whistled sound. They inhabit deciduous woodlands close to swamps and rivers. Jekyll Island is an excellent place to spot them in Georgia.
5. Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawks are called Buteo platypterus in the scientific community. They measure 13.4 to 17.3 inches (34 to 44 cm) long, weigh about 9.3 to 19.8 ounces (265 – 560 g), and have a wingspan extending from 31.9 to 39.4 inches (81 to 100 cm).
Top Tip: These small-sized raptors possess stocky bodies, large heads, and short, squared tails. Their plumage is reddish-brown on top, barred on the belly, and streaked on the tail.
Typically, Broad-winged Hawks prey on small animals from their perching locations and produce a piercing call on a single pitch. They prefer staying underneath the forest canopy and are easily spotted in Brasstown Bald in Georgia.
Although some people may confuse Ospreys with eagles or hawks, they’re in fact neither. The Osprey is a member of the Pandionidae family and is scientifically referred to as Pandion haliaetus.
These raptors are smaller than Bald Eagles but longer and larger than Red-tailed Hawks. Their length measures between 21.3 and 22.8 inches (54 and 58 cm), their weight ranges from 49.4 to 70.5 ounces (1400 to 2000 g), and their wingspan extends between 59.1 and 70.9 inches (150 and 180 cm).
Usually, Ospreys like to prey on fish, so they’re sometimes commonly called “sea hawks”, “fish hawks”’, “river hawks”, and so on. However, they may also feed on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans.
7. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl, also known as Bubo virginianus, measures 18.1 to 24.8 inches (46 to 63 cm) long, weighs 32.1 to 88.2 ounces (910 to 2500 g), and has a wingspan between 39.8 and 57.1 inches (101 and 145 cm).
Due to their highly nocturnal nature, your best chance of seeing one would be at night. Don’t worry though, you can easily pinpoint their whereabouts thanks to their iconic hooting calls.
Additionally, the Great Horned Owl has a unique look that makes it hassle-free to identify. This raptor possesses very large ear tufts and a big orange-colored head with black and white rings radiating from its face.
8. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl, also called Strix varias, measures about 16.9 to 19.7 inches (43 to 50 cm) long and weighs around 16.6 and 37.0 ounces (470 and 1050 g). Its wingspan ranges from 39.0 to 43.3 inches (99 to 110 cm).
The bodies of these raptors are stocky with rounded heads and tails. They don’t have ear tufts and their eyes are entirely black, providing a striking contrast against their pale faces.
Author Note: Their name refers to the horizontal stripes on their plumage that alternate between shades of brown and white.
One of the most unique aspects of the Barred Owl species is their hooting call, which distinctly sounds like the question: “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?”. These birds of prey live in mature forests containing both deciduous and evergreen trees.
9. Eastern Screech-Owl
The Eastern Screech-Owl, also known as Megascops asio, measures 6.3 to 9.8 inches (16 to 25 cm) long, weighs 4.3 to 8.6 ounces (121 to 244 g), and has a wingspan ranging from 18.9 to 24.0 inches (48 to 61 cm).
Short and stocky, Eastern Screech-Owls are either grey or reddish-brown. They possess complex patterns of spots and stripes that provide excellent camouflage against tree bark.
Eastern Screech-Owls have big heads, yellow eyes, and pointed -often raised- ear tufts. They also have squared tails and rounded wings.
Due to their nocturnal nature, it’s rare to spot these owls. They inhabit second-growth forests at lower elevations, residing in open areas such as swamps and suburban areas.
Most birdwatchers recognize Eastern Screech-Owls by their distinct calls.
10. American Barn Owl
One of the most widespread owls in the country, Barn Owls are also known as Tyto alba. They measure 12.6 to 15.8 inches (32 to 40 cm), weigh about 14.1 to 24.7 ounces (400 to 700 g), and have a wingspan ranging from 39.4 to 49.2 inches (100 to 125 cm).
These raptors are easily recognizable thanks to their pale heart-shaped face and absence of ear tufts, which earned them a bunch of different names such as “monkey-faced owl” and “church owl”.
Not to mention, they’re also called “ghost owls” owing to their ability to fly in total silence at night. This raptor prefers to stay near old trees and in wooden buildings such as barns, hence the name.
11. Peregrine Falcon
Scientifically referred to as Falco peregrinus, the Peregrine Falcon is one of the fastest animals in the world and -by far- the fastest bird on the planet. The aerodynamic shape of its body allows it to achieve a tremendous speed of up to 200 mph when nosediving.
The length of the Peregrine Falcon ranges between 14.2 and 19.3 inches (36 and 49 cm) and it weighs about 18.7 to 56.4 ounces (530 to 1600 g). Its wingspan extends from 39.4 to 43.3 inches (100 to 110 cm).
These raptors mainly prey on pigeons but will sometimes feed on doves, waterfowls, and songbirds as well. They’re blue-grey on top and barred with lighter shades on the underside.
12. Turkey Vulture
One of the most common vulture species across the United States, the Turkey Vulture is commonly called the “Turkey Buzzard” but scientifically referred to as Cathartes aura.
These Georgia birds of prey are larger than Red-tailed Hawks, measuring 25.2 to 31.9 inches (64 to 81 cm) long and weighing about 70.5 ounces (2000 g). Their wingspan ranges between 66.9 to 70.1 inches (170 to 178 cm).
Turkey Vultures have black bodies and featherless red-colored heads with pinkish beaks. They show a remarkable flight style at low altitudes where their wings spread in a V-shape formation.
Turkey Vultures like to feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals including other birds. They depend on their strong sense of smell to find their meals.
13. Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle, scientifically known as Haliaeetus leucocephalus, has been the national bird of the United States of America since 1782.
This raptor is commonly found in Georgia, but you can also spot it in just about every state of mainland USA as well as Alaska, Canada, and some regions in Northern Mexico.
Bald Eagles aren’t bald in the typical sense; they actually have thick white feathers covering their entire head and face. Instead, their name comes from the old English word “piebald”, which translates into “white patch” in reference to the bird’s bright white head.
These predators like to stay near bodies of water as their diet consists mainly of fish. They measure 27.9 to 37.8 inches (71 to 96 cm) long, weigh 105.8 to 222.2 ounces (3000 to 6300 g), and possess a wingspan of 80.3 inches (204 cm).
14. American Kestrel
Last but not least, we have the American Kestrel. It’s scientifically known as Falco sparverius, but it’s classified as a hawk, not a falcon.
This raptor is commonly called the “sparrowhawk” since it’s the smallest hawk throughout North America. It measures 8.7 to 12.2 inches (22 to 31 cm) long, weighs 2.8 to 5.8 ounces (80 to 165 g), and has a wingspan ranging between 20.1 to 24.0 inches (51 to 61 cm).
Author Note: The American Kestrel has black spots all over its body with distinct steely blue patches on its wings and forehead.
There you have it,14 of the most common Georgia birds of prey. You can use the descriptions and information we shared today to make finding and recognizing these raptors easier the next time you’re in the Peach State.
All you need to do is stay on the watch!
Both! There are 6 species of hawk: Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, Short-tailed Hawk. There are 3 species of falcon: the Peregrine, Kestrel and Merlin.
Georgia has both U.S. eagles – the Golden and Bald.
Hawks are generally bigger than falcons. The Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon and it is bigger than the smallest hawk, the Sharp-shinned Hawk.