Must See Birds Of Prey
Birds of prey (or raptors) include species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter. Additionally, they have keen eyesight for detecting food at a distance or during flight, strong feet equipped with talons for grasping or killing prey and powerful curved beaks for tearing flesh. The term raptor is derived from the Latin word rapere, meaning to seize or take by force. In addition to hunting live prey most also eat carrion, at least occasionally, and vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source.
Want to see some of the world’s most impressive raptors?
The local specialist tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife offer set departure or bespoke organised trips that include the opportunity to see a range of birds of prey in their natural habitat. Enquire direct or book through Blue Sky Wildlife for the best deals.
Here are seven of birdwatchers’ most desired species of birds of prey to see around the world:
1). Northern Goshawk
The fierce looking Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a widespread species that inhabits many of the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere and is the only species in the genus Accipiter found in both Eurasia and North America. The second half of its scientific name, gentilis, means ‘gentle’, as only the nobility were permitted to fly Goshawks for falconry in the Middle Ages. It may have the widest distribution of any true member of the family Accipitridae, behind arguably only the Hen Harrier and occurring over a slightly wider range than either Golden Eagle or Rough-legged Buzzard. It is mainly resident, but birds from colder regions migrate south for the winter.
Featured itinerary: Yorkshire Coast Nature, “Summer Yorkshire Wildlife Safari” – This exclusive 2.5 day safari tour is aimed at discovering a wide range of wildlife from Orchids and Butterflies to Seabirds and Birds of Prey.
Photo credit: Northern Goshawk, Yorkshire Coast Nature
2). Andean Condor
The massive Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) has a wingspan which may reach three metres or more. Its broad wings are ideally suited to soaring over the high Andes and coasts from Colombia south to Tierra del Fuego. They may be seen in many places, but the best include Antisana National Park in northern Ecuador, Colca Canyon in southern Peru (where the birds are sometimes close enough to hear the wind rushing past their outstretched wing feathers), Bolivia, northern Argentina, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in southern Argentina.
Featured itinerary: Trogon Tours, Argentina, “Birding Argentina’s Northwest” – A 15 day birding adventure in the Province of Tucumán, exploring the Yungas Cloudforest. Forming a wedge along the southern Andean chains of Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, the Yungas Cloudforest supports one of the greatest biological diversities in the Neotropics.
Photo credit: Andean Condor,Trogon Tours
3). Swallow-tailed Kite
Few creatures look as beautiful in the air as does the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus). This wonderful bird has a wide distribution, from the southeast USA (northern summer) and southern Mexico to northern Argentina and may be seen in most destinations in Central and South America. Manu National Park in Peru and the Southern Andean Yungas in Argentina are reliable spots.
Featured itinerary: Manu Birding Lodge, Peru, “Birding Manu National Park Tour” – A 15-day tour in Manu Biosphere Reserve which has the highest biodiversity of any protected area in the world.
Photo credit : Shutterstock, Swallow-tailed Kite
4). African Fish Eagle
The magnificent African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) gets the nod over the Bald Eagle because its loud yodelling call is so evocative of Africa. Indeed, Africa would not be Africa without its fish eagles. It may be seen in many places south of the Sahara, though its less common (or entirely absent) in the remaining extensive forested areas of West Africa and the drier regions of the southwest. Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana are good locations.
Featured itineraries: Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris, South Africa, “Eastern South African Endemics” – A 15 night /16 day birding safari in Eastern South Africa visiting Kruger National Park focusing on the endemic and near-endemic bird species or Letaka Safaris, Botswana, “Northern Wings” – This 12 day safari offers some of the best of both bird and wildlife areas in Northern Botswana.
Photo credit: African Fish Eagle, Simien Park Lodges, Nick Crane
5). Harpy Eagle
The ultimate raptor; the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is the largest, heaviest and most powerful eagle, which may reach a height of over a metre and weigh up to nine kilos. It preys primarily on tree dwelling mammals, which research has shown to be about 79% sloths and 11.6% monkeys. Monkeys such as Capuchin, Howler, Saki, Spider, Squirrel and Titi are preyed upon, though it will also eat armadillos, peccaries, porcupines, curassows and macaws. They have even been recorded preying on seven kilo red howlers. The eagle has a wide range from southern Mexico, where it is very rare, south through Central America and lowland South America from as far south as the far north of Argentina. The eagles inhabit extensive forested areas occupying large territories up to about fifteen square miles in extent, where the huge Accipiter-like birds with broad, rounded wings and long tails twist and turn with surprising agility through the trees and branches in pursuit of prey. Not only are they thinly distributed, they rarely soar above the forest canopy and are therefore very hard to spot. The most likely places for nests to be found by locals, and therefore the most reliable places in the world to see them, are the Imataca Forest Reserve in eastern Venezuela, El Palmar in Bolivar and the Darien in eastern Panama, with a much lesser chance in Guyana, Serra das Araras, Alta Floresta and the Pantanal in Brazil and out of several lodges in Amazonia, especially in Ecuador.
Featured itinerary: Explorer’s Inn, Peru, “Tambotapa Birdwatching Tour” – This 7-day tour will allow birders to see the best of nature in the wild at the Tambotapa National Reserve, amongst them one of the world’s largest and most majestic birds of prey: the Harpy eagle.
Photo credit: Harpy Eagle, Rainforest Expedition
6). Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) is the fastest member of the animal kingdom. When stooping in pursuit of prey the Peregrine can reach up to 180 kph and even 300 kph. It pursues flying birds with remarkable speed and agility, striking them with its talons, though the prey is probably killed by the force of the impact. The Peregrine is also arguably the most widespread bird, occurring from the Arctic to Australia, and may be seen virtually anywhere, including the middle of some cities. Monfragüe National Park in Spain is a wonderful place to watch raptors, including Peregrine. Further afield, try Mount Abrupt, the coastlines of Bruny Island and the Tasman Peninsula in Australia.
Featured itinerary: Birding Extremadura, Spain, David Lindo “Extremadura Autumn Tour” – A 7-day tour run by broadcaster David Lindo and Martin Kelsey. This group holiday (5 – 11 October 2019) explores Extremadura, visiting the world famous Monfragüe National Park Red Deer rut or Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, Australia, “Bruny Island Cruises” – An award winning 3 hour wilderness cruise exploring Bruny Island. Enter deep sea caves, pass through the narrow gap between the coast and ‘The Monument’ and search for abundant wildlife.
Photo credit :John Hawkins , Peregrine Falcon
7). Brown Fish Owl
The beautiful and enigmatic Brown Fish Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) inhabits the warm subtropical and humid tropical parts of continental Asia and some offshore islands. Of the four living species of fish owl, it is the most widely distributed, most common and best studied. It occupies a range of over seven thousand kilometres from eastern China to Palestine. This owl feeds primarily on fish, frogs and freshwater crabs. Other prey items such as crayfish, snakes and lizards are taken too. It may occasionally catch rodents, birds, large insects and sometimes carrion. Sightings are unforgettable.
Featured itinerary: Walk With Jith, Sri Lanka “Bird Watching Tours Sri Lanka” – These tours range from 7 to 14 days and are mainly focused on the birds of Sri Lanka with all endemic birds. Walk With Jith will endeavour to show travellers more than 200 birds including all 33 endemics.
Photo credit: Shutterstock, Brown Fish Owl
Are you interested in seeing Birds of Prey in the wild?
Best known for his wildlife journalism, contributing to publications including BBC Wildlife, Birdwatch, Birdwatching and Nature’s Home, Ed also has a strong background in wildlife conservation. He has previously worked for the RSPB at Symonds Yat Rock in Gloucestershire and surveyed Nightingales for the British Trust for Ornithology. Ed has a passion for all birdlife with a particular interest in raptors and bird vocalisation, and takes pleasure in committing new ones to memory. He leads tours worldwide for The Travelling Naturalist and Greentours, as well as Asian Adventures in India and The Governors’ Camp Collection in Kenya.
Originally Published: 19 Dec 2018