When somebody mentions California, our mind probably wanders around sunny beaches and palm trees. However, there’s another intriguing thing about this landscape—its wide range of raptors, also referred to as “birds of prey,” which are an invaluable resource to the State of California.
In this article, we are going to take you through all the species of raptors inhabited throughout the state!
- American Kestrel
- Bald Eagle
- California Condor
- Cooper’s Hawk
- Ferruginous Hawk
- Golden Eagle
- Harris’s Hawk
- Northern Goshawk
- Northern Harrier
- Peregrine Falcon
- Prairie Falcon
- Red-shouldered Hawk
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Rough-legged Buzzard
- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Swainson’s Hawk
- Turkey Vulture
- White-tailed Kite
- Barn Owl
- Barred Owl
- Burrowing Owl
- Great Grey Owl
- Great-horned Owl
- Northern Long-eared Owl
- Short-eared Owl
- Spotted Owl
The American Kestrel may be the tiniest, but it’s the most commonly spotted falcon in North America. You can find them all year long across the state of California.
Their length usually ranges between 8.25 to 12.25 inches, with a wingspan varying from 20 to 24 inches.
The males bear a smaller size than their female counterparts and weigh around 2.82 to 5 ounces. The female falcon weighs between 3 to 6 ounces.
An American Kestrel majorly feeds on mice, lizards, insects, voles, and snakes.
The Bald Eagle is a year-round resident in California, inhabiting from north of Sacramento, all the way to Oregon’s border. During winters, these birds migrate from their breeding ground to relocate across California. They prefer staying around large water bodies.
These birds are quite large in size, reaching in length around 38 inches. Their wingspan is close to 8 feet. Usually, the females weigh almost 14 pounds, while the males reach a mass of 11.50 pounds only.
Although they fancy preying on fish, they eat pretty much anything they catch.
The California Condor is a full-time occupant in a small part of Southern California and is the largest Californian bird of prey. The height of these birds almost reaches 4.5 feet and the wingspan is nearly 9.5 feet.
They usually reach a higher scale of weight, ranging between 17 to 30 points. This condor feasts 100% on carrion with no particular significance to the size of the dead animal.
You can spot the Cooper’s Hawk all year long in California. The size of the male and female varies largely in size. Males reach a 15-inch length, weighing about 14 ounces and females develop nearly 18 inches in length with a weight close to 24 ounces.
Both sexes feature a wingspan of about 35 inches. Cooper’s Hawks are fundamentally bird hunters and are known to visit birdfeeders in tempting numbers. They hunt small to medium-sized birds – quails, doves, and woodpeckers.
The Ferruginous Hawk is only found in California during winters. They possess a wingspan of almost 5 feet and reach 26 inches in length. The average weight of males is 37 ounces, while females are somewhat heavier and weigh up to 43 ounces.
The top food items covered in their menu are small to medium-sized mammals, like rabbits and hares, ground squirrels, and kangaroo rats to name a few. Additionally, they also prey on tiny birds, insects, and amphibians.
The Golden Eagle is a year-round resident of California and reaches 3 feet in length. They have a wingspan close to 7.5 feet. The females weigh nearly 14 pounds, which is more than that of a male weighing a maximum of 10 pounds.
Depending on where they live, these birds feed on medium-sized rodents, hares, rabbits, birds, and reptiles.
You can only find Harris’s Hawk towards the southeastern landscape of California. They bear an average height of 20 inches with a wingspan of nearly 42 inches.
Female hawks weigh up to 42 ounces, while the males reach only 31 ounces in weight. They engulf a wide variety of small animals and birds, including rats, lizards, and even rabbits.
The Merlin can be located anywhere across California during the fall and winter season. They reach a length of around 12.5 inches with a wingspan spanning at 28.5 inches.
Females are heavier to some extent and max out at nearly 105 ounces, while males, which are relatively lighter reach a maximum of 8.25 ounces.
Distinct birds make up most of their diet, but they also like eating lizards, rodents, insects, and snakes.
The Northern Goshawk resides throughout the Californian state all year-round, except along the west coast of Sonoma and north to Oregon.
They reach a length of 19-27 inches with a wingspan of 3 to 4 feet. They do not weigh much, only 1 to 3.5 pounds, which is significantly lesser in comparison to other birds of prey.
These species include chipmunks, mice, grouse, raccoons, hares, squirrels, hares, doves, geese, crows, and woodpeckers in their diet.
The Northern Harrier is a year-round resident in most areas of California, north of San Luis Obispo. These harriers are medium-sized and reach a size of up to 20 inches with a wingspan touching 48 inches.
Females are heavier, weighing up to 21.6 ounces and the males weigh around 13.75 ounces. Their diet mostly comprises birds and small-sized mammals.
The Osprey is a Californian resident, tenanted from Sacramento and north to Oregon. Present in smaller numbers are residents in the South, extending from San Diego to Mexico. They either pass through or breed in California other times in the year.
These hawks reach a length of about 25 inches, possessing a wingspan of 5.5 feet. While males weigh almost 4 pounds, females are slightly heavier and reach 4.5 pounds.
Ospreys chiefly prey on live fish, but also eat birds, snakes, frogs, mammals, reptiles, and crustaceans.
The Peregrine Falcon is found all year long in California, except for the northeastern territory of the state. They are the fastest birds of prey inhabited in California, owing to their diving speed of over 200 mph.
The average size of the male and female differs. Together, they bear a height of around 18 inches. The females weigh around 3.3 pounds while males max out at 2.2 pounds.
They feed on an array of birds, with pigeons often favored in the cities and ducks fancied along the coast.
The Prairie Falcon is found all year round in California.
They have a height of up to 18.50 inches and a wingspan reaching 44 inches. The larger females max out at around 38 ounces while males only weigh around 23 ounces.
They prey on a wide variety of birds sized at different dimensions. Smaller birds encompass tanagers and meadowlarks, while the larger ones like nighthawks and pheasants also form their diet.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is majorly spotted along the western region of California. They range from as far up north as the Shasta National Forest and San Diego in the south.
Their length almost touches 18.5 inches and their wingspan is nearly 45 inches. While females are heavier and weigh 24.74 ounces, the average weight for males is around 19 ounces.
They seek a diverse variety of prey, including birds, frogs, mice, lizards, voles, shrews, spiders, crayfish, grasshoppers, caterpillars, earthworms, beetles, and more.
The Red-tailed hawk is a year-round inhabitant, spread through the state of California.
They expand as long as 23 inches in length and feature a wingspan reaching 4.5 feet. Both sexes do not weigh as high as the other species.
The maximum weight of males is a little over 2.75 pounds. Females, on the other hand, are heavier and reach nearly 3.25 ounces.
These hawks prey on lots of mice and rats. Furthermore, they also love feeding on medium-sized mammals, birds, and reptiles.
The Rough-legged Buzzard breeds in the Canadian arctic and travels south during winters. They visit California at certain times of the year.
These hawks can reach a length of nearly 25 inches and feature a wingspan of around 5 feet. Males possess a maximum weight of up to 3 pounds, while females touch as close as 3.5 pounds.
Voles and lemmings make up most of their diet, but they also prey on smaller birds and mammals.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is known to inhibit the mountainous regions of California. These include the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range, and the Great Basin.
Their length ranges between 9 to 13 inches with a wingspan extending up to 22 inches. Females can weigh around 5 to 7 ounces with the males weighing 3 to 4 ounces.
Nearly 90% of their diet comprises small-sized birds, but they occasionally eat small mammals, insects, frogs, lizards as well.
The Swainson’s Hawk is only found in a small region of California. They are tenanted northwest of Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, and range north to the Cascade Range with the south of Redding.
They are sized at a length of 22 inches and a wingspan ranging 54 inches. Males are relatively lighter and weigh up to 33 ounces, while females weigh up to 60 ounces at the maximum.
They mostly prey on reptiles and small-mammals during early summers. In other seasons, they fancy feasting on large insects.
The Turkey Vulture is found throughout the year in the western part of California. They occupy the eastern part of the state for breeding at certain times a year.
Their weight and length may vary quite significantly, ranging from 25 to 32 inches in size and weighing from 2 to 4.5 pounds. Their wingspan extends from 5 to 6 feet.
They feed on dead animals.
The White-tailed Kite resides throughout California all year round. Their home ranges from Mexico’s southeastern border and east to the Arizonian border. From there, they range northwest up Redding.
You can also find them on the Californian coast towards the north and the border of the Coastal Range southwards.
These kites can be around 17 inches in length and touch a wingspan of 40 inches. Their weight varies from 8.5 to 13 ounces, and they mostly feed on small rodents like house mice and voles.
The Barn Owl stays in California all year long. It is a popular belief among many Californian birdwatchers that they are the cutest of the birds of prey across the entire state.
They are as long as 16 inches in size with a wingspan of a little beyond 4 feet. Their weight is nearly up to 25 ounces.
These owls have a penchant for preying on rodents like mice and rats. They also hunt fish, insects, birds, and reptiles.
You can find the Barred Owl in the northwestern region of California. They are found as far south above Vallejo and in the east above Tule Lake. From there, they range southwest to the coast beside Point Reyes and north up to Oregon.
They are sized at 20 inches and have a wingspan of around 43 inches. Their weight can reach as high as 37 ounces.
Small rodents comprise most of their diet, but they also hunt for animals as big as rabbits and possums. Snakes, birds, insects, and small amphibians are on the menu too.
The Burrowing Owl is found in California all year long, with the extreme northwest area as an exception. These species are dwellers of the ground and reside in burrows dug by tiny mammals like prairie dogs.
They range 7 to 10 inches in length and weigh up to 6 ounces. Due to their small size, they mostly feed on insects and mammals.
Great Grey Owl
The Great Grey Owl is a resident of California’s south-central and northeast region.
They are the world’s tallest owl species, yet not the heaviest. They are lengthed at around 26.5 inches and males bear a maximum weight of 2.5 pounds.
Females are relatively heavier and max out at 4 pounds. Most of their diet consists of rodents, like mice, voles, shrews, and gophers.
The Great-horned Owl inhabits the entire state of California all year long. Their body length ranges from 18 to 25 inches with a wingspan that approximates to 5 feet. The weight of both sexes varies significantly.
While males weigh around 3.5 pounds, females reach as high as 5.5 pounds. These owls have a humungous menu. They prey on pretty much every small to medium-sized animals, including squirrels, swans, herons, reptiles, and amphibians.
Northern Long-eared Owl
The Northern Long-eared Owl either breeds of lives throughout the state.
They reach a size as large as 15 inches and feature a wingspan up to 39 inches. Females are heavier with a weight of 13.5 ounces, while the maximum weight in males is around 10.75 ounces.
They mostly eat small mammals, the type depending on their location.
The Short-eared owl lives in California north of San Francisco all year long. They also migrate to the state during winters.
They are sized at around 16.5 inches and bear a wingspan of about 43 inches. While males weigh around 14 ounces, females are heavier with a weight of 16.75 ounces.
Their menu encompasses voles, and other rodents like pocket mice, deer mice, and lemmings.
The Spotted Owl is scattered much throughout the Californian state. You can spot most of them from north of San Francisco to Oregon and the eastern region to the Modoc National Forest.
These owls are sized somewhere around 19 inches. Male owls carry a weight of 24.69 ounces. Females, who are slightly heavier, max out at 26.8 ounces.
They eat small mammals, including voles, bats, rabbits, wood rats, and more.
The IUCN Red List has declared this species as nearly threatened with the decreasing population.
Conclusion: Birds Of Prey Found In California – Spotted one, yet?
Among the list of these determined migrants, year-round breeders, and lingering winter residents, California brims with a variety of birds of prey.
Whether you are an avid bird watcher or an observer, you can always spot these majestic creatures fluttering through the Californian wind. So, keep your binoculars ready and enjoy gazing at these birds!