This checklist is to help you identify raptors in the Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania (SE PA) and New Jersey region.
A checklist narrows down the number of birds you have to learn to successfully bird in your area.
In the Philadelphia area you can see 22 species of raptors and 4 migrants. That is not a bad number since there 30 species of hawks, eagles and falcons along with 18 species of owls in North America. So, in instead of learning 48 species you can learn the 26 in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Of course this tactic applies to wherever you may live.
Migration season is not the only time to raptor-watch. Many species spend the winter here with our newly mild winters. And you can always see the resident raptors like Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures soaring in the sky on any given day, all year around.
The Diurnal Raptors – these birds hunt by day
Hawks – there are two types of hawks in North America, accipters and buteos
Accipters – “forest hawks”
- Sharp-shinned Hawk (winters in SE PA)
- Cooper’s Hawk (resident)
- Northern Goshawk (winters in SE PA)
Buteos – “soaring hawks”
- Red-shouldered Hawk (resident in SE PA)
- Broad-winged Hawk (breeds in SE PA)
- Red-tailed Hawk (resident in SE PA)
- Rough-legged Hawk (winters in SE PA)
- Osprey (breeds in PA) In 2010, I saw this bird fishing in the Schuylkill River near Bartram’s Garden.
- Bald Eagle (resident/breeds in PA/NJ)
- Golden Eagle (migrates through PA)
HARRIERS (only one species in North America)
- Northern Harrier (winter resident in SE PA/breeds in PA)
- American Kestrel (resident in SE PA)
- Merlin (winters in SE PA)
- Peregrine Falcon (winters and some residents in SE PA)
NEW WORLD VULTURES (feeds primarily on carrion, rarely hunts live prey)
- Black Vulture (breeds in PA)
- Turkey Vulture (breeds in PA) – a very common birds in the Philadelphia area
The Nocturnal Raptors – these birds hunt by night
Barn and Bay Owls (heart-shaped facial disk, no ear tufts, primarily tropical, only type of owl that can hunt in total darkness)
- Common Barn Owl (lives in PA/NJ – only barn owl in temperate zones)
“True” Owls (round or oval facial disks, may have ear tufts)
- Great Horned Owl (resident in SE PA)
- Barred Owl (rare in SE PA; found in west of Delaware Valley)
- Eastern Screech Owl (resident in SE PA)
- Saw-whet Owl (winters in SE PA)
- Long-eared Owl (resident of SE PA)
- Short-eared Owl (winters in SE PA)
occasional northern migrants – Snowy Owl, Hawk Owl and the Great Gray Owl
Since I adore raptors, I am sure this is not the last of the raptor information I’ll blog about. Expect more. You have been warned.
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