Oklahoma birds of prey

Oklahoma Birds of Prey: Top 7 Most Common Predators with Pictures

Bird of prey is a type of bird that feasts on animal meat and is recognizable by its curved bill and strong talons. Some familiar types of birds of prey are vultures, eagles, owls, and hawks. 

The birds can be found all over the world. However, in Oklahoma, certain bird species are more common than others.  This is due to the fact that Oklahoma has sunny summers and cold winters, which attracts different types of birds.

We’ve compiled a list of 7 Oklahoma birds of prey that you can find.

Top 7 Most Common Oklahoma Birds of Prey

1.  Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered Hawks have wide, rounded wings and are medium-sized birds. The hawks have a medium-sized tail that spreads out when they fly. Additionally, they have wingtips that thrust somewhat forward during flight.

Unfortunately, Red-Shouldered Hawks are threatened to be endangered. Deforestation is the primary danger to the hawks.

Appearance

Red-shouldered Hawks have dark and white checkered wings, as well as crimson lines on their upper bodies. Their tail is long and is black with thin white lines. The upper side of adult wings is more banded than the young hawks.

Author Note: Young hawks have a brown upper body and a white underbelly with brown streaks. The wingtips of all ages have a small, light crescent.

Red-shouldered baby hawks are most likely to be mixed up with broad-winged hawks but can be differentiated by a long tail, sickle-shaped feather markings, and stronger flaps. Red-shouldered Hawks have a distinctive whistle.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is slightly smaller than Red-tailed Hawks and slightly bigger than Broad-winged Hawks.

Diet

Red-shouldered Hawks swoop through the air or rest on tree branches or power lines. They tend to hunt small animals such as frogs, salamanders, and lizards.

Environment And Behavior

Red-shouldered Hawks are found in wooded areas near rivers and streams as they frequently fly along hills or near water during migration.

The hawks prefer to make nests in a big tree’s trunk. Red-shouldered Hawks can be seen soaring over their nesting site in the spring. Every year, the Red-shouldered Hawks tend to come back to the same nesting location.

2.  Great Horned Owl

great horned owl close up

The Great Horned Owl is big and has two noticeable feathery spikes on its head. The wings are wide and round. The rounded head and small beak unite in flight to give the bird a strong appearance.

Appearance

Great Horned Owls have a mixed gray-brown coloration, reddish-brown facial features, and a white patch on the neck.

Their color varies from smokey to light depending on the region. Birds from the northwest are usually jet-black, and the birds in the southwest are lighter in color. However, those arctic regions can be nearly white.

Its huge stature and big ear tufts are its most distinguishing physical features. This owl has a big face with large golden eyes, a bent beak and talons, and long puffy feathers.

Diet

Its main food sources are rodents and rabbits but can consume other animals, including small birds, frogs, and insects like worms.

Environment and Behavior

The Great Horned Owl is nocturnal, which means they’re active at night. At nightfall, the owls can be spotted perched on the edges of structures. They also like open spaces so you might find them flying across highways and green areas.

Top Tip: A wavering succession of four to five hoots is their call.

The owls are native to the Americas and mainly live in wooded regions with open areas in between. Green forests, deserts, and tropical rainforests, as well as towns and gardens, are among the environments the owls prefer. 

The great horned owl likes to be subtle. Because of its organic-looking feathers, the owl manages to blend in with the environment. During the day, it normally rests on big trees, but it may also roost in thick bushes.

3.  Peregrine Falcon

Perched Peregrine Falcon

With broad, sharp wings and a long tail, Peregrine Falcons are considered to be the largest falcon across most of the continent. 

Because of the extensive use of pesticides and chemicals, particularly DDT, the peregrine falcon became an endangered animal in many regions.  However, since there were laws implemented banning the hunt of the falcon, it restored their population numbers.

Appearance

The Peregrine’s large primary feathers give it a lengthy appearance. Female peregrine falcons are significantly larger than males, indicating that the falcons are sexually dimorphic.

The adult’s back and long pointed wings are normally bluish-black to charcoal grey with faint darker banding. The wingtips are dark in color. The breasts of the youngsters are strongly marked, with vertical lines instead of horizontal lines.

Author Note: Despite significant age and geographic variance, a sharp, barred appearance dominates. The male and female have identical patterns and feathers. However, the females are slightly bigger in size than the males.

Diet

The Peregrine Falcon hunts moderate-sized birds. The birds are experts at hunting pigeons in cities and can also eat ducks and shorebirds.

Environment and Behavior

Peregrine Falcons frequently roost or establish their nests on tall structures such as towers, cliffs, and power lines. Peregrines are found across North America, but they’re more abundant towards the coasts.

They frequently sit on elevated ledges, looking for the perfect moment to launch an air attack by stooping.

The peregrine falcon is known for its speed, which can hit over 200 mph during its signature diving stoop, earning it the title of the world’s fastest bird.

4.  Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture in a tree

The Turkey Vulture is one of the most widely spread vultures in the New World Vultures. They’re mostly seen in the south and southeast of the United States.

The Turkey Vulture gained its popular name because of its apparent similarity to Wild Turkey, with its bare head and dark plumage.

Appearance

Turkey Vultures have body feathers that are predominantly brownish-black, but the flight plumage on the wings has a silvery-gray underside, which creates a great contrast.

The Turkey Vulture, like all other vultures, has a bald head. This prevents carrion fragments from sticking to the body.

These birds have little sexual dimorphism as both genders have the same plumage and appearances and are about the same size.

Author Note: When flying, Turkey Vultures elevate their wings, creating a V-shape. They’re smaller in size than an eagle but bigger than a Red-tailed Hawk.

Diet

The turkey vulture is a predator that eats almost solely dead animals. It hunts for food with its strong eyes and sharp sense of smell. The birds hover to the ground smelling the fumes released by the start of the decay process in animal carcasses.

Environment and Behavior

Turkey Vultures swoop closer to the ground, searching for carcasses or using their thermal sense at higher altitudes. They fly in small numbers and rest in big flocks.

The birds can sometimes be found in small groups on the ground, clustered around dead animals or landfills.

Turkey Vultures can be found in open spaces such as highway ditches, rural areas, and garbage dumps. They perch on poles, buildings, and metal posts during the winter and nighttime.

The only sounds Turkey Vultures can make are groans or quiet hisses as it lacks a syrinx.

Vultures have a potent stomach acid that can destroy bacteria. Therefore, this helps the environment as it removes bacterias found in carcasses.

5.  Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Nest with Eaglet

The Bald Eagle’s range encompasses the majority of Canada and Alaska, as well as the whole of the United States and northern Mexico. 

Since 1782, the bald eagle has served as the national symbol of the United States of America.

Due to the usage of the pesticide DDT in the 1950s, the Bald Eagle population number began to drop. However, the population was successfully restored after intensive wildlife conservation laws implemented by the United States government.

Appearance

Bald Eagles have dark brown bodies and wings and white heads as well as tails. Their beak and legs are a bright yellowish color.  The eagle has a huge head, a hefty body, and a long, curved bill. A Bald Eagle in the air spreads its wings wide and flat like a plank.

The appearance of both sexes is identical, however, females are somewhat larger than males.

Young birds have primarily dark heads and tails, with various levels of white blotch on their brown wings and body. It takes roughly five years for young birds to mature into adult appearance.

Diet

Bald Eagles eat mainly fish but can also eat other animals such as shorebirds.

Environment and Behavior

Bald Eagles soar up in the sky or sit on tree branches or the ground, fluttering low across trees with steady wings flapping. The eagles scavenge by annoying other birds or consuming dead animals or trash.

Bald Eagles prefer to live near bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds, and coastlines.

6.  Northern Harrier

norther harrier over field

Northern Harriers may be seen throughout Oklahoma over the year. The best time to view these birds is during the fall. They can be found hunting for smaller animals in farms, wetlands, and open spaces.

Appearance

Harriers are slim, moderate-sized raptors with lengthy, curved tails and wide wings. The birds have flattened faces and their bills are short and strongly curled. Harriers’ wings are commonly shaped in a V-shape when they soar.

They’re smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk in size but larger than a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

The plumage and size of adult northern harriers are sexually dimorphic. Males have dark wingtips, a black lining to the edge of the wing. Additionally, they have black-banded tails, and are grey above and white below.

Females and young birds have brown tails with black bands. Young birds have a dull color in the undersides with less striping than adult females, who have white undersides with brown lines. A white rear spot is seen during their flight on all Northern Harriers.

Environment and Behavior

Northern Harriers mate in broad environments such as farmlands and open areas with a big body of water. Their nests are hidden among grasses or wetlands on the ground.

During migration and the wintertime, harriers migrate south. They usually avoid cold areas, especially regions with snow.

When searching for food, Northern Harriers fly close to the ground, gliding in alternating directions across the fields as they keep an eye out for small creatures.

7.  Osprey

osprey catching a fish

Ospreys are seen swooping above the water, hovering, and then diving feet-first into the water to catch fish with their claws.

They’re considered big birds, as they reach more than 27 inches in length and 71 inches across the wings.

Appearance

Ospreys are big hawks with a striking appearance. The bodies are thin, with lengthy and narrow wings and long legs, despite their size. When viewed from underneath, ospreys’ wings have a distinct bend, forming an M shape.

The Osprey is smaller than Bald Eagles, but larger and has longer wings than Red-tailed Hawks.

The bird’s upper parts are a dark, shiny brown, with white breasts that are mottled with brown and pure white undersides. Their head is white, with a dark cover that reaches to the sides of the neck and covers the eyes that are golden to brown.

Osprey’s claws are black and their feet are white. White markings on the back and dull coloring on the breast distinguish young Ospreys from the adults.

Diet

Fish make up about all of the Osprey’s diet. The birds hunt for fish by hovering directly overhead above fairly shallow water with continuous wings flapping and folded wings. They frequently linger for a few seconds before leaping headfirst into the water to catch a fish.

Environment and Behavior

Ospreys can be spotted near any water body, including marshlands, rivers, ponds, lakes, and coastlines. Their visible twig nests are built on posts, canal markings, and dead trees in open areas, typically above water.

These birds may live in a range of locations, as long as there is a stretch of water nearby that provides enough sustenance.

Author Note: Ospreys can be seen on all continents except Antarctica.

Summary

Oklahoma is home to many raptors. Some can be found near bodies of water, while others can be found in high buildings and structures.

The majority of the birds eat the carcasses of dead animals. So, if you come across any carcasses, such as roadkill on a highway, keep an eye out for a bird of prey.

While some birds of prey may seem intimidating, they’re quite significant. So if you ever see a great horned owl or a peregrine falcon flying, make sure to take a picture.

We hope you enjoyed this guide on the most common Oklahoma birds of prey.

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