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Identifying Raptors in Flight

Although it takes time to be able to identify specific raptor species, you can tell which general group a bird belongs to by its size, silhouette in flight, and how it flies. The following groups are listed from largest to smallest.

Eagles are very large raptors with proportionally long, broad wings, a fan shaped tail that is twice as long as the head and neck. Eagles will soar on outstretched wings with few wing beats. They feed on small to medium sized mammals.

Buteos have broad, rounded wings, a robust body and a fan shaped tail. Buteos are medium to large soaring hawks. They may fly for long periods without flapping, riding on warm air currents. They feed on rodents, reptiles, and insects.

Accipiters are forest hawks that have short, rounded wings, and a long tail. These small to medium sized birds make rapid wing beats and then glide. They prey mainly on birds and small mammals.

Falcons have long, narrow, pointed wings, large heads, and long tails. They are small to medium size and have rapid wing beats in flight. They are famous for their technique of high speed dives toward their prey.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
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