27 Common Birds Of Prey In Colorado


Birds Of Prey In Colorado

Rich in natural beauty, the state of Colorado is known for its vivid landscapes of canyons, rivers, plateaus, deserts, forests, and mountains. The state is home to about 511 species of birds, which includes a large population of birds of prey. In this article, we will take a look at 27 of these raptors who are commonly seen in Colorado.

 

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Accipiter gentilis
Body length – 46-61 centimeters (18-24 inches) in males; 58-69 centimeters (23-27 inches) in females.
Weight – about 630 grams to 1.3 kilograms
Wingspan – 89-105 centimeters (35-41 inches) in males; 108-127 centimeters (43-50 inches) in females.
Lifespan – about 20 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – Expanding

Belonging to the family of hawks, the Northern Goshawks are the heaviest as well as the largest members of the genus AccipiterOpens in a new tab.. Although their body is relatively short, they have broad wings and a long tail. They have slate-grey upperparts with paler underparts and reddish-orange eyes.

 

Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Ictinia mississippiensis
Body length – 30-37 centimeters (12-15 inches)
Weight – about 214 to 388 grams
Wingspan – 91 centimeters (3 feet)
Lifespan – about 8 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Although the Mississippi Kites have been named “kite”, they look more like falcons than kites in appearance. These small birds of prey are known for being buoyant fliers that hunt and eat small insects in flight. They are farmers’ friends for eating all the crop-damaging insects and are also known to eat small birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

 

Golden Eagle

Golden eagle - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Aquila chrysaetos
Body length – 66-102 centimeters (26-40 inches)
Weight – about 4.5 to 6.35 kilograms
Wingspan – 1.8-2.34 meters (5.11-7.8 feet)
Lifespan – about 30 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – sharp population decline in some regions

With a dark brown body and golden-brown plumage, the Golden Eagles are the most widespread birds of prey found in North America. They have sharp talons and powerful feet and are fast and agile enough to grab prey like hares, rabbits, and squirrels in flight. These raptors are admired by many American tribes for their strength and courage.

 

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Accipiter cooperii
Body length – 35-50 centimeters
Weight – about 280 to 349 grams
Wingspan – 62-99 centimeters (24-39 inches)
Lifespan – about 10-12 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Named after the American ornithologist, William Cooper, the Cooper’s Hawks are endemic to the continent of North America. These medium-sized birds have a wedge-shaped tail and feet that are far too thick. Their bill is short and robust, curving downwards at its tip. Cooper’s Hawks are known for hunting by stealth, taking their prey by surprise as they approach them.

 

American Kestrel

American Kestrel Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Falco sparverius
Body length – 22-31 centimeters (8.7-12.2 inches)
Weight – about 80-165 grams
Wingspan – 51-61 centimeters (20-24 inches)
Lifespan – 14-17 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – threatened/endangered

The American Kestrels are the smallest members of the hawk family found in North America. They are about the size of a Blue Jay, and are also known as “Sparrow Hawk”. They have a long, square-tipped tail and slim, pointed wings that are shaped like the wings of a falcon. You can usually find them near open fields, where they usually hunt.

 

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Aegolius acadicus
Body length – 16-22 centimeters (6.7-8.7 inches)
Weight – about 54 to 151 grams
Wingspan – 41-56 centimeters (16-22 inches)
Lifespan – about 7 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – slowly declining due to habitat loss

The Northern Saw-whet Owls are named after the threatening calls they make, which sounds like the sharpening of a saw. Not larger than an American Robin in size, these are one of the smaller owls found in North America.

 

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Buteo swainsoni
Body length – 43-56 centimeters (17-22 inches)
Weight – about 810 grams to 1.15 kilograms
Wingspan – 117-137 centimeters (46-54 inches)
Lifespan – about 16-19 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – threatened

The Swainson’s Hawks are medium-sized hawks who are named after the British naturalist, William SwainsonOpens in a new tab.. These hawks are fond of eating locusts and grasshoppers, and are, thus, known by the names of “Grasshopper hawks” or “Locust Hawks”. In the migratory season, they travel as far as 12,000 miles, surpassing all the North American birds of prey.

 

Spotted Owl

Spotted Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Strix occidentalis
Body length – about 43 centimeters (17 inches)
Weight – about 600 grams
Wingspan – about 114 centimeters (45 inches)
Lifespan – 16-17 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – near threatened

The Spotted Owls are the medium-sized members of the true owl family that mostly inhabit the mountain ranges of North America. They make their nests in the oak and conifer trees and are known to feed on small mammals and birds. These owls are more of ambush predators and rarely hunt during the day.

 

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Cathartes aura
Body length – 62-81 centimeters (24-32 inches)
Weight – about 800 grams to 2.4 kilograms
Wingspan – 160-183 centimeters (63-72 inches)
Lifespan – 17 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Also known as “Carrion Crow” in the Caribbean regions, the Turkey Vultures are currently the most widespread New World Vultures in the world. These birds are scavengers that mostly feed on decaying animals.

 

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Buteo regalis
Body length – 51-69 centimeters (20-27 inches)
Weight – about 907 grams to 2.2 kilograms
Wingspan – 122-152 centimeters (48-60 inches)
Lifespan –  up to 20 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – Common and widespread

The Ferruginous Hawks are closely related to the Rough-legged Hawks and are, thus, colloquially called “Ferruginous rough-leg”. These birds are endemic to the interior regions of North America and are often uses as a falconry bird in those areas. Ferruginous Hawks are the largest members of the Buteo genus and are often confused with eagles due to their size.

 

Osprey

Osprey Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Pandion haliaetus
Body length – 50-66 centimeters (20-26 inches)
Weight – about 900 grams to 2.1 kilograms
Wingspan – 127-180 centimeters (50-71 inches)
Lifespan – about 7-10 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Ospreys are large, fish-eating raptors which are also referred to as “Fishhawk” or “Seahawk”. They have a grey head and underparts with brown wings and upperparts, long, narrow wings, and a short tail. When they are in flight, their wings become arched, making them appear like a gull.

 

White-Tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Elanus leucurus
Body length – 35-43 centimeters (14-17 inches)
Weight – about 250-380 grams
Wingspan – 88-102 centimeters (35-40 inches)
Lifespan – 5.9 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – rare and endangered

The White-tailed Kites are small-sized raptors that are found in the western regions of North America. They were first discovered by Louis Vieillot, a French ornithologist, in 1818. Although they have the coloration of gulls, in shape and flight, they appear more like falcons. White-tailed Kites are not keen on eating other bird species and mostly eat rodents.

 

Merlin

Merlin Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Falco columbarius
Body length – 24-33 centimeters (9.4-13 inches)
Weight – about 165 to 230 grams
Wingspan – 50-73 centimeters (20-29 inches)
Lifespan – about 10 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – recently declining

Merlins are small falcons that breed in the northern Holarctic realm. In North America, these birds are colloquially known as “pigeon hawks”, and have a rather long history of being used as falconry birds. They have a heavily-built, robust body and have a reverse sexual dimorphism wherein the females are slightly larger than their male counterparts.

 

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Glaucidium californicum
Body length – about 15-17 centimeters
Weight – 62 grams in males; 72 grams in females.
Wingspan – about 38 centimeters
Lifespan – about 7 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – uncommon in general, but widespread

The Northern Pygmy Owls are endemic to western North America. Although they are small-sized birds, they are fierce hunters who are fond of small songbirds. They have a dark body with a long tail and bright yellow eyes.

 

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Falco peregrinus
Body length – 34-58 centimeters (13-23 inches)
Weight – about 700 grams to 1.5 kilograms
Wingspan – 74-120 centimeters (29-47 inches)
Lifespan – about 15 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – threatened species

The Peregrine Falcons are one of the most widespread falcon species in North America. In the past, they were called “Duck hawks” in North America. These birds are as big as a crow, with a dark head, bluish-grey back, and dark underparts barred with brown. Their breeding range stretches from the Arctic tundra to the tropics.

 

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawk - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Buteo jamaicensis
Body length – 45-55 centimeters (18-22 inches)
Weight – about 1.1 to 1.5 kilograms
Wingspan – 120-141 centimeters (47-56 inches)
Lifespan – 21 years in wild; 29 years in captivity.
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – widespread and common

Of all the hawks you can find in North America, the Red-tailed Hawks are most widespread. They have a dark brown head and neck with a lighter brown patch on the throat, which gives them a hooded impression.

Their tails and underwings are brick-red in color. Red-tailed Hawks are known to be opportunistic feeders but generally feed on rodents in North America.

 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Tyto alba
Body length – 14 to 20 inches
Weight – about 224 to 710 grams
Wingspan – 30 to 40 inches
Lifespan – about 4-15 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Considered to be one of the most beautiful owls, the Barn owls have a heart-shaped face, dark eyes, and a greyish beak. They have irregularly placed ears, which makes them great hunters among other owl species.

 

Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon - eBird

Scientific name – Falco rusticolus
Body length – 48-61 centimeters (19-24 inches) in males; 51-65 centimeters (20-2.5 inches) in females.
Weight – 805 grams to 1.3 kilograms in males; 1.8-2.1 kilograms in females.
Wingspan – 110-130 centimeters (43-51 inches) in males; 124-160 centimeters (49-63 inches) in females.
Lifespan – about 14 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Gyrfalcons are the largest members of the falcon species and can be found on the northern islands of North America during the breeding season. They grow as large as the largest buzzards and are even heavier than them. These birds are polymorphic with several color variations. However, the ones you find in Colorado are mostly white in color.

 

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Psiloscops flammeolus
Body length – 15 centimeters (6 inches)
Weight – 62-65 grams
Wingspan –  36 centimeters (14 inches)
Lifespan – 7.1 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Flammulated Owls are small members of the true owl family that have wings that are quite large in relation to their bodies. They have named “flammulated” because of the flame-like markings all over their face. In appearance, they are similar to the Western Screech Owls. Only these birds are much smaller than the latter and lack their ear tufts.

 

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Circus hudsonius
Body length – 41-52 centimeters (16-20 inches)
Weight – about 290 to 750 grams
Wingspan – 97-122 centimeters (38-48 inches)
Lifespan – about 12 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – a steady decline in population due to habitat loss

The Northern Harriers are the only Harriers that can be found in North America. These hawks rely on their hearing and vision for hunting, just like the owls. Of all the hawk species found in North America, the Northern Harriers have the longest wings and tail in relation to their body size.

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Strix varia
Body length – 40-63 centimeters (16-25 inches)
Weight – about 470 grams to 1.05 kilograms
Wingspan – 96-125 centimeters (38-49 inches)
Lifespan – 10 years in wild; 23 years in captivity
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Also known by the name of “hoot owls”, the Barred Owls are the members of the true owl family that are endemic to eastern North America. If you compare the appearance of these owls with the other North American owl species, you will find them to be dull. They have a large head with a body that seems too small for it.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle - Wikipedia

Scientific name – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Body length – 76-86 centimeters (30-34 inches) in males; 89-94 centimeters (35-37 inches) in females.
Weight – about 3 to 6.3 kilograms
Wingspan -182-215 centimeters (72-85 inches) in males; 200-228 centimeters (79-90 inches) in females.
Lifespan – about 15-20 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Bald Eagles are sea eagles that are called “bald” for being white-headed. These eagles make their nests in old-growth trees and are often found near water bodies where they have access to an abundance of food. They are fond of fish and have a knack for snatching them with their talons by flying closely over the rivers.

 

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Athene cunicularia
Body length – 19-28 centimeters (7.5-11 inches)
Weight – about 140 to 240 grams
Wingspan – 50-61 centimeters (20-24 inches)
Lifespan – about 6-8 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – endangered in some of the U.S. states

The Burrowing Owls are small owls with remarkably long legs. They have a brown head and wings that are covered with white spotting. Unlike other owl species that inhabit dense forests, these owls are found in open fields and grasslands.

 

Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon - eBird

Scientific name – Falco mexicanus
Body length – 37-38 centimeters (about 15 inches) in males; 45 centimeters (17.7 inches) in females.
Weight – about 500 to 635 grams in males; 762 to 970 grams in females.
Wingspan – about 1 meter (40 inches)
Lifespan – about 13 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – a sensitive species

Prairie Falcons are medium-sized falcons that are endemic to western North America. They are about the size of a crow. Although their wingspan is similar to that of the Peregrine Falcons, they are lighter in weight than the latter and can survive on lesser food.

 

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl - eBird

Scientific name – Aegolius funereus
Body length – 22-27 centimeters (8.7-10.6 inches)
Weight – about 93 to 215 grams
Wingspan – 50-62 centimeters (20-24 inches)
Lifespan – about 16 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – a sensitive species in some regions

Boreal Owls are small-sized owls that belong to the family of typical owls. These owls inhabit dense coniferous forests and are hard to spot due to their evasive, unsociable nature and nocturnal lifestyle.

 

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Caracara cheriway
Body length – 49-63 centimeters (19-25 inches)
Weight – about 1.05 to 1.3 kilograms
Wingspan – 120 centimeters (47 inches)
Lifespan – 26 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – threatened species

The Crested Caracaras are members of the falcon family that are known for their preference for walking instead of flying. They also have long legs that are well suited for walks. They have a black crown, crest, and wings with a white tail and white patches on their neck and rump.

 

Harris’s Hawk

Harris's Hawk Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scientific name – Parabuteo unicinctus
Body length – 46-59 centimeters (18-23 inches)
Weight – 710 grams in males; 1.02 kilograms in females.
Wingspan – 103-120 centimeters (41-47 inches)
Lifespan – about 12 years
Diet – Carnivore
Conservation status – disappearing in some regions

Earlier known as the “Bay-winged hawk”, the Harris’s Hawks are medium-sized raptors. They have red shoulders, brown plumage with a white base, and a white-tipped tail. These birds display sexual dimorphism wherein the females are larger than the males. They usually feed on mammals, birds, lizards, and large insects.

 

Endnotes – Birds of prey in Colorado

There are all kinds of birds of prey found in Colorado, including owls, hawks, eagles, harriers, kestrels, vultures, and falcons. Although they are varied, you can distinguish between them if you pay attention to their appearance and call sounds.

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