Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin
The skies of Connecticut are a treasure trove of aerial beauty, teeming with fierce predators on the hunt.
From the majestic bald eagle to the stealthy osprey, the 19 species of birds of prey in the state offer a stunning display of power, grace, and cunning.
Soar with us as we discover the unique characteristics and habitats of each of these incredible creatures.
|Eastern Screech Owl|
|Great Horned Owl|
Types of Birds of Prey in Connecticut
1. Red-Tailed Hawk
The Red-Tailed Hawk is among the most widely distributed species of hawk found across North America and may be seen breeding over the entirety of the United States continental area.
This “chickenhawk,” which is another popular name for it, is a frequent visitor to the region all year round and is quite adaptable to a variety of environments.
This species is characterized as an opportunistic specialist, which implies that it will consume everything that it can get its mouth on when given a chance.
This consists mostly of rodents of a smaller size, with ground squirrels being the preferred option.
Hawks that are still immature are more inclined to hunt various types of prey, including amphibians, invertebrates, and fish, but even by the time they attain sexual maturity, they typically no longer engage in this behavior.
2. Red-Shouldered Hawk
The Red-Shouldered Hawk like Connecticut because it traditionally borders their breeding habitat and because it enables travel relatively quickly.
They nest in the same location year-round, but at some point, throughout the year, they might make the relatively short journey to the breeding places, where they will stay for the appropriate period of time to rear their young before taking them back to the nest they maintain in the state.
They got their name from the red patches that look like shoulders and are apparent when the birds are sitting in certain positions.
These spots grow more vibrantly red as you move farther north; for example, the ones across Florida are normally a lighter shade of red, but the ones from Maine have a more brilliant shade of red.
In the absence of these spots, it is possible to confuse them with Broad-winged Hawks; nevertheless, they may be separated from their cousins by their longer tails, crescent-like wing markings, and more forceful flapping.
This bird is frequently mistaken for the common Red-Tailed Hawk, despite the fact that the latter species is normally bigger and heavier, having wings that are proportionally larger and also broader.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk lacks a tail that is visible when in flight, but the Red-Tailed Hawk does have a tail that is far redder in color and is visible while it is in flight.
In addition, while flying, the Red-Shouldered Hawk will follow the leading lines of other members of its own species.
This may be an incredible sight for anyone of any age who likes watching birds.
3. Broad-Winged Hawk
Before moving south to spend the winter mostly in neotropics, the Broad-winged Hawk may be spotted in Connecticut during the summertime more often than at any other time of the year.
Their wings are quite wide, yet they are rather short, which gives them the ability to fly rapidly through thick undergrowth. This gives them their name.
They utilize this advantageously as cover while hunting. As a result, human destruction and the dispersion of the rainforest in this region have had a severe influence on their numbers.
This particular hawk makes use of thermals in order to glide through the air with the least amount of exertion and consumption of energy.
Those individuals of subspecies that live within Connecticut and make the decision to migrate travel in groups among more than Forty across a distance ranging from 1,900 to 3,700 miles.
The fall migration typically lasts for around three months, during which time they cover roughly 63 kilometers per day on average.
4. Northern Harrier
The Northern Harrier is a species of bird of prey that spends the summertime months breeding in the more northern regions of Connecticut and then migrates south to spend the winter months in the more southern states.
Because they are able to withstand relatively low temperatures well, this species of a hawk will make its home in regions that are more temperate.
The unique thing about this bird is that the adult and the female possess unique characteristics that are distinct from each other.
For instance, the female is significantly bigger and heavier than the male, and she has noticeably darker “female” feathers.
However, both males and females possess the widest wings and tails compared to their body size with any bird of prey across North America.
5. Cooper’s Hawk
The Cooper’s Hawk is resident across the whole state of Connecticut, with the exception of a teeny-tiny patch of woodland in the state’s northernmost region, which is the only place in the state in which a breeding colony decides to roost annually.
This incredible bird is believed to be a “true hawk,” which is a categorization given to birds that are noted for their swiftness and dexterity when flying through the air.
It is easy to mistake them for Sharp-shinned Hawks since they are normally bigger in Connecticut, whereas the same species may be seen in western states.
This hawk is known by a variety of slang names, the most prominent of which is the Chicken Hawk or the Hen Hawk, due to the pejorative reputation they have among farmers for stealing poultry and other animals from their flocks.
Because of this, they have acquired the unfavorable image of a “destructive hawk,” and as a result, humans have begun using industrial pesticides on fields with the express intention of harming this particular species.
Thankfully, despite decreases that may be attributed to human activity, the bird population has remained steady.
6. Northern Goshawk
Non-breeding populations of Northern Goshawks may be found across Connecticut throughout the year.
This means that older birds who have reached sexual maturity have made the decision not to mate and instead opt to stay in the same location.
Hawks that are still kids and relatively young will opt to make their home in the more northern regions of their typical nesting sites in Canada.
Due to the fact that it’s the only species of its family that can be found within that range, most people identify it as a “Goshawk.”
This bird is able to thrive in a variety of environmental conditions, including a wide range of temperatures and a wide variety of habitats; for example, it can live in both deciduous and coniferous woods.
They are not quite as powerful of fliers as several other types of hawks, so they favor forests that have an intermediate amount of canopy cover and a minimal amount of undergrowth.
This helps them avoid getting accidentally trapped or harmed in the undergrowth.
Additionally, they need to be in close vicinity to holes in order to carry out additional hunting, and the habitat loss caused by humans has certainly helped to provide hawks with a greater number of openings.
7. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
It is generally agreed that the males of the Sharp-shinned Hawk are the tiniest of all the hawks found across North America, including in Canada and the USA.
In this species, as is the case with the Northern Harrier, the females are significantly bigger than the males.
The state of Connecticut is home to a significant number of these hawks all year long.
They are most often seen roosting on broad-leaved trees and conifers, with oaks being their preferred choice.
The temperate, boreal woods are home to the state’s most populous populations of this species, and they like to live at higher elevations.
These hawks are quite adept in navigating their way through thickets of trees and plants in pursuit of food, and they make excellent use of the shelter provided by these obstacles.
They will make the majority of their kills by sneaking up on and ambushing their prey as it moves through dense underbrush, an environment in which the prey would normally feel secure.
The vast majority of its meals consist of tiny birds, including a variety of songbirds such as tits, nuthatches, thrushes, sparrows, wrens, and finches.
8. Rough-legged Hawk
The Rough-legged Hawk is a medium-to-large bird of prey that spends the winter throughout Connecticut.
This bird of prey is also widely referred to as the Rough-legged Buzzard.
It migrates northward during the summertime, all the way up to the Arctic Circle, where its plumage serves as an insulator because of the extreme cold.
Because of this, the hawk is very well suited to living in frigid environments.
They are also not hostile toward members of their own species, which is beneficial when they are huddling together for warmth on the freezing tundra.
Due to the fact that around 98% of this bird’s diet consists of small animals, this species has been able to develop into an excellent hunter.
There is evidence to indicate that these hawks might actually be capable of sensing the smell tracks left behind by voles, which can only be detectable in the UV spectrum.
This enables them to follow voles over vast distances without even needing to see the animal itself.
When there are not enough small animals available, they may hunt for food elsewhere, such as insects as well as other birds.
Another type of little falcon that may be seen throughout Connecticut is Merlin; however, it is only there during migratory seasons.
It is best to search for them during the spring and autumn because that is when they travel through the state on their way from and to their nesting sites in Alaska and Canada.
However, it could be hard to see them because they are skittish tiny falcons that understand how and where to blend in with their surroundings.
Their top parts are either grey or slate grey, while their underparts are predominantly brown with little black stripes. This makes them easy to recognize.
Although they are just a little larger than American Kestrels, they sometimes give the impression of being substantially heavier and larger.
Merlins don’t really construct their own nests but rather steal the nests of many other species or raptors when they are available.
Small songbirds make up the majority of their diet, and it has been observed that they often hunt groups of birds in teams in order to enhance their chances of being successful.
10. American Kestrel
The whole state of Connecticut is home to a population of American Kestrels, which are present all the time.
When in the countryside, these birds may be observed perching on landlines and wooden poles, having a sharp lookout for insects, small animals, and reptiles to snag.
Kestrels are food for bigger birds of prey like crows, hawks, and owls, in addition to reptiles like snakes, so they must be careful to keep an eye out for any animals that could try to eat them.
The American Kestrel is not only the most vibrantly colored but also the tiniest of the falcons found across Connecticut and the whole of North America.
The males’ wings are grayish-blue, and their backs are fiery orange with black barring.
The tip of the tail appears black, while the rest of the tail is a rusty orange color.
The pale tummy has a wash of orange all over it, and it is charmingly speckled with little black polka spots.
11. Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon is only ever seen in the eastern section of Connecticut during its time away from its nesting grounds in the western regions of the state.
In spite of the fact that place at a single point in time, the peregrine falcon was brought to the verge of extinction across North America, the species has made a recovery in the past few decades and is now among the most widely distributed bird species on the planet.
They are discovered on every continent on the planet, with the exception of Antarctica.
Peregrine falcons are a species of falcon that perform amazing flying acrobats and ruthless hunters.
When hunting prey, they can reach speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour, ranking them the fastest creatures on the globe.
It has been observed that they consume around 450 different kinds of birds across North America and over 2,000 species globally.
Their diet consists almost entirely of other birds.
12. Bald Eagle
If you’re fortunate enough to witness a Bald Eagle visiting Connecticut during the winter, you may call it a “winter visitor,” snap a snapshot, and marvel at the enormous bird’s size.
The Bald Eagle has been the national bird of the United States, but that isn’t the only reason why it is so well-known here.
They get their name from the ancient sense of “bald,” which means “white-headed,” a reference to the white feathers that covers their crown.
Unbelievably, in the late 20th century, this incredible bird was almost wiped off by hunting in the United States.
There was still a robust population across Canada; therefore, we can only call it “extirpated” in the contiguous United States.
Due to rigorous hunting regulations and other safeguards from local governments, it was taken off the list of threatened and endangered Wildlife around 2007.
13. Golden Eagle
One of the more recognizable large prey birds across the Northern Hemisphere is the Golden Eagle.
It is able to capture a wide range of enormous prey because of its speed, agility, and strong feed, which is armed with sharp claws.
After spending the summertime reproducing across eastern Canada, they migrate south to Connecticut for the winter.
Although most Golden Eagle colonies are thought to be permanently settled, this species is really just partly migratory.
They are a robust species that has adapted well to cooler climates, and it is often the more robust youngsters who decide to make the journey to mating grounds in the summertime.
As very territorial creatures, eagles may get into fights with one another if they accidentally fly into another eagle’s area while migrating.
14. Eastern Screech Owl
Connecticut is home to the Eastern Screech Owl, a tiny owl found across Eastern North America.
The populations across the South and the North vary somewhat; Northerners have more completely tufted feet than their Southern counterparts.
They are common in areas with established orchards and around running water, particularly across Connecticut.
This little owl is more at home in the dark and will leave any territory where bigger owls are known to frequent.
Because of this, they’ve increasingly settled in metropolitan areas, where they’ve thrived since urbanization began.
They are also able to coexist with people since they are nocturnal, preferring to roost during the daytime and hunt during the night.
15. Barn Owl
The Barn Owl, also known as the American Owl, is the most common owl and among the most common bird species worldwide.
Extremely widespread, it is only absent from the arctic and arid zones and certain islands in the Pacific.
All across the state of Connecticut, but particularly in the barns from which it takes its name, you can find this bird.
In Connecticut, you’re most likely to see Barn Owls of the subspecies Strix alba.
In much of its territory, it is nocturnal and uses its keen hearing to hunt small mammals.
Barn owls often stay with their partners for the rest of their lives or until one of them dies.
Barn Owl populations may boom when there is an abundance of rodents and other tiny prey.
16. Great Horned Owl
When it comes to real owls, the Great Horned Owl has the widest distribution in the Americas.
It’s one of the most easily identifiable owls in the state of Connecticut, and it resides there year-round.
The name comes from the tufts, called plumicorns, on each side of its head that look somewhat like horns.
More study is required to confirm this notion, although it is possible that owls use them as a visual signal in territorial and sociosexual encounters with other owls.
This massive owl has a wide home range and can change its food from rabbits and hares to rodents and rats with relative ease.
When hunting, it has been seen going after everything within its speed and size range, including bigger reptiles and some other birds.
Because of their comparable habitats, food, and nesting behaviors, the Red-Tailed Hawk is sometimes considered to be its diurnal counterpart.
17. Barred Owl
In eastern North America, you may find the Barred Owl, a species of the real owl family that should not be mistaken for the Barn Owl.
Although they spend the winter in Connecticut, their westward expansion has made them an invasive species in the region.
They are more at home in the state’s thick mature woods, but they are adjusting effectively to more open forests with varying densities.
Massive and predatory, this owl is notorious for picking down smaller birds in the forest.
The Spotted Owl is still in danger due to this bird’s westward spread, and yet it is among the only owls for whom hunting is not only permitted but actively encouraged, leading to much debate over the species’ future.
18. Snowy Owl
Because of its snowy white coloring, the Snowy Owl is often associated with the tundra or taiga.
This species of bird, however, is remarkably mobile, and it has been gradually shifting its breeding range southward.
Due to changes in available prey, the breeding population that is now located in extreme northern Connecticut is gradually expanding southward.
The Snowy Owl is the biggest owl on the planet and the greatest avian predator within the High Arctic.
When it comes to the New World, however, they emerge on top as the biggest and longest-winged owl across North America.
The owl in question is one of a kind since it actively pursues prey at all hours during the day and night if it so chooses.
The Osprey is a huge bird of prey that can usually be found in close proximity to any body of water it would need to access for its preferred food source, fish.
It is particularly common on eastern and central Connecticut shore platforms.
Their propensity to swoop down and pluck fish from the water has earned them the nickname “fish hawks” in their native regions.
They’re the only known species within Connecticut that subsist entirely on fish, making them highly specialized and effective hunters.
There have been reports of them catching as many as ten fish in a single day.
In spite of human contamination of their water source using pesticides and some other toxins, their numbers are on the increase again.
In conclusion, the 19 species of birds of prey in Connecticut are a remarkable testament to the diversity of wildlife in the state.
From the iconic bald eagle to the lesser-known but equally impressive species, these birds offer a glimpse into the natural world and the intricate balance of life.
By learning about their habits and habitats, we can better appreciate and protect these magnificent creatures.
So, the next time you’re out in nature, keep an eye on the sky and marvel at the beauty of Connecticut’s birds of prey.
What makes a bird of prey different from other birds?
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are differentiated from other birds by their sharp talons, hooked beaks, and powerful legs, which are adaptations for hunting and capturing their prey. They also have keen eyesight and powerful flight muscles, which help them locate and chase down their food.
Where do birds of prey in Connecticut typically live?
Birds of prey in Connecticut can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, wetlands, fields, and coastal areas. Some species, like the bald eagle, can be found along large bodies of water, while others, like the barn owl, prefer to hunt in open grasslands. The habitat of each species will vary based on their specific needs and the availability of food sources.
What do birds of prey in Connecticut typically eat?
The diet of birds of prey in Connecticut will vary based on the species. Some birds, like the osprey, feed primarily on fish, while others, like the Cooper’s hawk, hunt small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. Some species, like the great horned owl, are versatile predators and will eat a variety of prey, including birds, reptiles, and mammals.
How can I help protect birds of prey in Connecticut?
There are several ways you can help protect birds of prey in Connecticut. One of the most important ways is to support conservation efforts, such as habitat protection and restoration. You can also help by being mindful of your impact on the environment and avoiding activities that can harm birds of prey, such as using pesticides and leaving out food that could attract their prey. Additionally, you can support organizations that work to protect and conserve birds of prey, such as the Connecticut Audubon Society.