Raptors – Mojave Desert Birds of Prey

If you’re a birdwatcher and you’re a birds lover you should move your focus a little into desert birds especially desert birds of prey, because there are many different species in the desert that I’m sure you will be amazed when you see it on pictures or directly in the desert and you will ask your self is it really these creatures living with us in this world?

In this article, we will mention the most famous desert birds of prey and we will discover their features and everything should know about them, Let’s get started.

What do birds of prey mean?

When you hear birds of prey we are talking about a group of predatory birds it means birds that eat each other or other animals and they are adapted to hunt every creature in the desert environment in addition they are known for their ability to survive in harsh conditions and places where the water source can be scarce but the main food sources are other creatures or Carrion.

Let’s see some common characteristics of these birds: most of these birds have a large size to efficiently hunt and capture prey in open desert areas, and their plumage is designed to protect them from the highest level of temperature and most times can be white or pale in color so as not to absorb the hot rays of the sun.

The third common thing is their large wingspan which allows them to soar high above the desert terrain and make the air help them when they are so high as they let it take them for a few minutes to save some power.

the fourth thing is Sharp Beaks and Talons to hunt and kill every prey easily including small mammals, reptiles, and birds or to open the carcass and eat whatever is inside without any effort.

Top 13 Desert Birds Of Prey:

Below are some of the 13 Desert Birds Of Prey You Should Know :

  1. Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  2. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  3. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
  4. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  5. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
  6. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
  7. Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
  8. Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
  9. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
  10. Peregrine Falcon (Falco pergrinus)
  11. Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
  12. Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus)
  13. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

1-Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

If you have ever traveled to North America to Alaska or northern Canada, Panama, and the West Indies, I’m sure you have seen it before if you are taking long distances by car between mountains.

The red-tailed hawk is a large bird of prey known for its distinctive appearance and impressive hunting abilities, What gives it these abilities is its wingspan of 3 to 4 feet in addition to its large peak and sharp claws that make it hunt easily. and its primary feed on small mammals like rodents, rabbits and other birds.

2-Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

When we’re talking about Osprey we’re talking about one of the unique raptors in North America, The thing that makes it unique is its main food source which is fish, and its ability to hunt in the rivers, lakes, and every place where there is water.

Osprey has the ability to fly above rivers, beaches, and lakes with rapid speed and sharp eyes with a full focus on the fish inside the water, Once the fish is coming near the surface of the water it’s become prey for the osprey.

The length of the Osprey is 21 to 24 inches and its wingspan is 4 ft. 6 inches to 6 ft that are brown above and white below in addition to having very sharp claws and eyes like other Ospreys.

3-Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

The Golden Eagle is a large bird that’s found in various parts of the Northern Hemisphere like North America from Alaska and northern Canada down to the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico and Eurasia including regions such as Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. They can be found in countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Alps, the Carpathian Mountains, and the Himalayas, among others.

This bird is very large as its length is  26 to 39 inches and its wingspan is 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) this size helps it to hunt the prey that are large like small deer and sheep but most times it hunts foxes, rabbits, squirrels, mice and others. and help also in flying to High altitudes.

4- Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The Bald Eagle is considered one of the largest desert birds of prey as it is 3 feet in length from head to tail and weighs 7 to 10 pounds (3.17kg to 4.53kg) but the females generally weigh more than males as it 14 pounds (6.53kg) in addition to its wingspan that is 8 feet, Its head and neck are white and the bill is large yellow, his body is dark brown.

The native of this bird is the United States and is the national bird and symbol of it, as we can find it from Alaska and Canada to the contiguous United States and parts of Mexico. the bald eagle is so rare and endangered to extinction.

The bald eagle mainly feeds on fish so much that if you want to see it you have to be near rivers, lakes, and everywhere where there is water and far from humans but when the fish is not available it hunts other birds or turtles and small mammals

5-Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

The Burrowing Owl is a different owl and it’s not like others because others move and hunt at night but the Burrowing Owl moves in the day and hunts in the ground some insects, snakes, small lizards, frogs, rodents, and other birds.

Its size is kind of small as it is 9 inches (23 centimeters) in height and it weighs only 4-7 ounces (113-198 grams).

This Owl is found in the deserts and nowhere else, you can find it exactly in western North America and central or South America. It’s rare also and endangered to extinction due to many reasons and one of these reasons is the loss of habitat occurs and it’s primarily due to urbanization, agricultural expansion, and land development, which directly reduces the availability of suitable nesting and foraging areas for these owls.

6-Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

The great Horned Owl is a nocturnal creature that can be found in the deserts of North America and can found also be in every open or semi-open habitat like forests, cities, grasslands, backyards, and wetlands…

they are known for their impressive size. On average, they have a wingspan of approximately 3.3 to 4.8 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) and stand about 18 to 25 inches (46 to 64 centimeters) tall. They are one of the largest owl species in North America, and their robust build and prominent “horns” of feathers on their heads contribute to their imposing appearance. These size characteristics make them highly efficient hunters, capable of taking down a wide range of prey in their habitats.

they are known for their strength as they can hunt large prey like mammals and other birds of prey like raptors, falcons, and owls but they can eat also small items or insects like scorpions, frogs, snakes, and rodents.

7-Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

When we’re talking about Harris Hawk, we’re talking about a handsome hawk that can be found in the southwestern United States south to Chile, and Latin America like central Argentina, and Brazil.

their plumage is dark down in their backs and wings with a white rump in addition to a black band near the tip of the tail feathers. The upper side of their tail is grayish, and the underside is white, their length is 23.2 inches and their wingspan is 49 inches.

They feed primarily on small mammals, rabbits, reptiles, insects, quail, and other birds. they don’t have a specific breeding time but Usually, they breed in spring, They start building nests and laying eggs also in spring (March through June).

8-Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that lives in North America Canada, Alaska, British Columbia to Minnesota, southern California, and northern Mexico, These places are considered the best for them because they offers all the thing they need like the suitable weather, the climate, environment, food (snakes, voles, lizards, rodents, and birds)

There are some Swainson’s hawks whose color tends to be brown, some of them tend to be white or gray, but most of them have dark grey on their backs to the tail with white color on their abdomen the chest is brown.

Their length is 19.25 inches (50cm), the wingspan is 47 to 57 inches (119.38cm to 144.78cm) and males weigh 0.81 kgs (1.8 pounds), females weigh 1.13 kgs (2.5 pounds)

9-Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper’s Hawks or let’s call them the excellent hunters because they are considered one of the desert birds of prey that have the ability to hunt other birds easily by using their ease of movement as they are very fast.

this hawk can be found in Mexico but they breed from southern Canada and they live in deserts, deciduous, woodlands, riparian areas, and forests. they have the ability to adapt anywhere because they feed on birds and small mammals, and this food can be found anywhere, it doesn’t need to be imported to a specific place to find it.

their females weigh 0.5 pounds (226.79 grams) and males weigh 0.66 to 0.88 pounds (302-402 grams). The length is 14.56 to 16.14 inches (37 to 41 cm), wingspan: is 27.55 to 30.31 inches (70 to 77cm)

10-Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Beauty, strength, and speed all these features are included in the Peregrine Falcon, what gives them these features is their size, Length: 14.2-19.3 in (36-49 cm) Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz (530-1600 g) and their wingspan is very large  39.4-43.3 in (100-110 cm)

The reason why they look so beautiful is their color that’s blue tends to gray above on their backs and white color on their abdomen with black points in addition to the black vertical streaks.

they live mostly near rivers, valleys, mountains, and coastlines, we can find them in South England to Georgia. they feed primarily on ducks, shorebirds, pigeons, grebes, songbirds, and gulls.

11- Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)

Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)

The Common Black Hawk is a bird of prey, his origin is northern South America to southwestern Utah and we can find it in Mexico and some other parts in central America.

He has white color under his wings and black tape with a dark brown head and white brown tail.

He weighs 1.4-2.9 lbs (0.6-1.3 kg), his length is 20-22 inches (51-56 cm) and wingspan 40-50 inches (102-127 cm), this size and weight makes him ability and strength to hunt preys.

he mainly feed on frogs,ants, rodents, fish, other birds but he can eat everything available.

12- Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus):

Pharaoh Eagle-Owl

A mixture between an owl with an eagle gave us Pharaoh eagle owl that is one of the desert birds of prey that lives in Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia in the west, through Niger, Mali, Sudan, Chad to Libya and Egypt.

he has a round face that can turn 360° like an owl but the other parts of the body are eagle, as the wingspan length is 32.4cm – 43cm, his length from the tail to the head is 45-50cm plus he weighs 1900-2300g.

This strange bird has a sharp claws and small beak but he is an expert of hunting at night more than day, his eyes are like a night binoculars, once he see the taste it becomes a prey for it.

This bird considered predator because his main food are dhub lizards, ape hares, desert rodents, hedgehogs, and birds.

13- Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Locals call this bird white scavenger vulture or pharaoh’s chicken and vulture refers to royalty in Egyptian culture, you can see this bird anywhere yo go in Egypt because there are many of them there, the reason is they are protected by Pharaonic law.

Egyptian Vulture is one of the desert birds of prey that considered also predator because he feeds on small mammals, carrion, fish, young birds, snakes eggs…

the size of Egyptian Vulture is 19–26 inches (47–65 centimetres), wings size is 61.02 – 66.92 inches (155- 170 cm), this size makes it able to hunt a medium to large preys in the desert.

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