British Birds Of Prey

Birds of prey, otherwise known as raptors, by definition catch their food using their feet instead of their mouths like most other birds. They also have acute vision and hearing and powerful talons and beaks.

Birds of prey can be divided into a number of families including buzzards and hawks, falcons, vultures, kites, harriers, eagles, owls and osprey, and in the UK you can find examples from all of these groups except for vultures.

Most birds of prey are diurnal meaning they hunt during the day although some owls are nocturnal and hunt after dark. They feed on small mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds and molluscs while Old and New world vultures prefer to eat carrion.

British birds of prey can be found all over the UK; some species such as kestrels or hawks can be easily spotted on open farmland or hovering near busy roads, and sparrowhawks will sometimes visit gardens, whereas it is more difficult to see owls who rarely conduct their activities during the day. They can be difficult to tell apart, particularly when you can only catch a fleeting glimpse of them or see a distant silhouette in the sky.

Find out more about some of the most common British birds of prey including identifying features, nesting and feeding habits and take a listen to their calls:

Tawny owl (Strix aluco) – resident breeding species

Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus) – breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

Hobby (Falco subbuteo) – breeding summer visitor

Western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) – resident breeder and passage migrant

Long-eared owl (Asio otus) – scarce resident breeding species

Red kite (Milvus milvus) – resident breeding species

Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) – resident breeding species

Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) – resident breeder, winter visitor and passage migrant

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) – resident breeding species

Barn owl (Tyto alba) – resident breeding species

Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles) – resident breeding species

European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) – breeding summer visitor and passage migrant

Little owl (Athene noctua) – resident introduced population

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) – breeding summer visitor

Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrines) – resident breeding species

Rough legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus) – winter visitor

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) – resident breeding species and winter visitor

Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nidus) – resident breeder and passage migrant

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo) – resident breeder and passage migrant

Merlin (Falco columbarius) – resident breeding species

White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) – resident breeding species

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