Last Updated on January 12, 2023 by Lily Aldrin
Michigan is home to a diverse array of bird species, including these 20 species of birds of prey.
These birds, also known as raptors, are characterized by their sharp talons and beaks, which they use to capture and kill their prey.
Birds of prey in Michigan include both resident species, which live in the state year-round, and migratory species, which travel to Michigan during certain seasons.
This article will provide an overview of 20 of the most notable birds of prey found in Michigan, including information on their physical characteristics, habitat, and hunting behaviors.
|Great Horned Owl|
|American Barn Owl|
|North American Bald Eagle|
|Broad Wings Falcon|
|Red Shoulders Hawk|
Table of Contents
- Common Birds of Prey in Michigan
- 1. Snowy Owl
- 2. Short-eared Owl
- 3. Barred Owl
- 4. Great Horned Owl
- 5. Eastern Screech-Owl
- 6. American Barn Owl
- 7. Peregrine Falcon
- 8. American Kestrel
- 9. Osprey
- 10. Golden Eagle
- 11. Bald Eagle
- 12. Crested Caracara
- 13. Black Vulture
- 14. Turkey Vulture
- 15. Red-Tailed Hawk
- 16. Broad Wings Falcon
- 17. Rough-legged Hawk
- 18. Red Shoulders Hawk
- 19. Sharp-shinned Hawk
- 20. Cooper’s Hawk
Common Birds of Prey in Michigan
1. Snowy Owl
One of the birds that are most easily recognized throughout North America is the Snowy Owl.
They can reach heights of up to 30 inches, and their weight can reach up to 3 pounds.
They have black or brown markings on their body and wings that contrast with their white feathers.
They have dark bills and eyes of a yellow color.
Voles, lemmings, mice, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits are all examples of the types of small rodents that make up the majority of their diet.
They consume fish and frogs during the winter months.
The snowy owl is native to the arctic tundras of every continent except Antarctica.
They inhabit arid regions with scant amounts of the surrounding vegetation.
2. Short-eared Owl
The underbelly, neck, head, tail, and chest of the short-eared owl are all black in color.
Depending on factors such as sex and age, the coloration of its body can range from gray to whitish brown.
The face is dark, and the eyes have a yellow-orange tinge to them.
Because of their similarity in shape, size, and the patterning on their feathers, people frequently mistake this species for the Northern Hawk Owl.
On the other hand, the Northern Hawk Owl has large ear tufts, whereas the short-eared owl only has small ones.
Owls with short ears are birds that are approximately average in size.
They range in length from about 13 to 17 inches and have a wing span of about 34 to 41 inches.
Owls typically weigh between 3.1 and 4.0 pounds.
Their tails can reach a length of about 4 inches in length when fully extended.
They consume rodents almost exclusively; however, as opportunistic predators, they are also capable of feeding on larger prey such as rats, mice, and even bats.
They swoop down upon their prey and seize it with their talons after they have successfully attacked it.
During the day, short-eared owls hunt by swooping down low over wide areas such as meadows and fields, in which they can see their prey.
When they are hunting, they frequently perch on nearby trees or rocks to get a better view of their prey.
It is common for short-eared owls to hunt small mammals, including voles and mice, in open habitats such as grasslands and prairies, where they make their homes.
They usually nest within tree holes.
3. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl is a species of owl that is among the most distinctive because of its small legs, long tail, and a huge head.
The facial markings, necks, and chests of barred owls are white, giving them a mottled brown appearance overall.
Barred owls have a jumbled appearance.
They have lengthy wings that taper towards the end, but their legs are short.
Their wing tips, tails, backs, and undersides are banded white and brown.
This design is repeated in a horizontal fashion down the body’s sides and in a vertical fashion along the back.
Their length may vary from 16.7 to 19.9 inches, and they can weigh up to 38 lbs; the spread of their wings can be anywhere from 39.1 to 43.7 inches.
Mice, snakes, lizards, squirrels, and frogs make up the majority of their diets.
They spend most of their time in wooded and grassy areas, as well as in grasslands and shrublands.
4. Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl is a massive bird that can reach heights of about 26 inches and have wingspans that can reach up to 5.0 feet.
It has a rounded beak, a large head, and a strong claw with a hooked tip at the end of each of its wings.
It has a crest that is formed by the plumage on the top of its head.
The body of the Great Horned Owl is a lighter shade of gray, while the head and neck are a darker shade.
It has a face that is a rusty brown color, and its feet are dark in color.
The beak of this species is black, and its eyes have a yellow-green coloration.
It primarily eats small mammals like voles, mice, and shrews.
They can also eat insects, amphibians, snakes, reptiles, and occasionally carrion.
It makes its home in wide-open plains and forests where there are lots of bushes and trees.
It will often roost among the tangled branches of old-growth coniferous woods.
5. Eastern Screech-Owl
One of the most frequent types of owls to be found across North America is the Eastern Screech-Owl.
It is a bird of medium size, measuring between 6.4 and 9.9 inches in height, weighing between 4.3 and 8.7 pounds, and having a wing span of 18 to 24 inches.
They have a grayish-brown color with thick black patches and streaks across their bodies.
They have bright beaks and are a golden color overall.
The earthworms, crayfish, insects, frogs, songbirds, and small mammals make up the bulk of an Eastern screech owl’s diet.
They consume both plant and animal life, making them omnivores in the scientific sense of the word.
They make their homes mostly in regions of forest, meadows, and clearings, and they prey at night from perches in these locations.
6. American Barn Owl
They have a rusty appearance with a slew of light greyish spots dotted around.
The color of their faces and underparts can range from beige-white to cream.
The typical weight of the barn owl is approximately 25 pounds, and its wing span can range anywhere from 30 to 38 inches in length.
The length of each of them ranges between 13 and 15 inches.
Voles make up the majority of their diet, but they have also been known to consume frogs, lizards, birds, and insects.
There are nocturnal prey birds called barn owls that can be found all over North America.
They soar over the open countryside, making their homes in abandoned structures and the walls of barns. They call open forests, woodland borders, grassland, and agricultural land their home.
7. Peregrine Falcon
Adult male peregrine falcons possess a back that is the color of slate gray, a white cheek spot, and white chests.
In contrast, the female possesses a back that is brownish in hue, cheeks that are a light buffy color, and breasts that are a brilliant yellow color.
The wingspan of a peregrine falcon may reach approximately 40 inches, and its weight can range anywhere from 12 to 53 lbs.
They consume the meat of other birds but are unable to identify the kind of prey they consume.
Songbirds, geese, ducks, pigeons, and grouse are all examples of primary suppliers of this material.
Most of the time, peregrines hunt in close proximity, waiting for their unwary victim to soar into view.
The falcon will dive from above and capture the desired prey if it does not approach close enough for it to grab it.
Peregrines may be found throughout the temperate parts of the planet, including Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
8. American Kestrel
The head and wings of males are colored a bluish-gray, while the wings, back, and tails of females are colored a bright red.
Juveniles appear identical to adult females.
The length of their bodies ranges from 8 to 12 inches, their weight ranges from 2.6 to 5.8 pounds, and their wingspans range from 20 to 25 inches.
They feed insects during the warmer months but switch to hunting for rodents and other small animals during the colder months.
When they are in urban areas, their diet consists of birds, frogs, snakes, and mice.
They have a remarkable capacity for adaptation, and as a result, they are able to live in a wide variety of environments, including tropical lowlands, mountainous regions, arid regions, and even urban areas.
Large birds of prey, ospreys, can be found all over the continent of North America.
They are distinguished by the length of their necks as well as the shape of their heads.
Their undersides are white, while the upper parts of their bodies are a dark brown color.
Their eyes are red, despite the fact that their heads are typically white.
Ospreys are distinguished by the presence of shadowy wing patches beneath their wings.
The length of their bodies ranges from 21 to 26 inches, and the span of their wings can be anywhere from 59 to 72 inches.
Fish, small mammals, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, and occasionally carrion make up the majority of an osprey’s diet.
They do so in close proximity to various water bodies, including rivers, marshes, lakes, ponds, bays, coastal lagoons, estuaries, and even oceans, where they lay their eggs.
They also do not construct nests; rather, they make use of natural cavities such as caves and trees with hollows.
10. Golden Eagle
Golden eagles are often considered to be among the most iconic birds native to North America.
The feathers that surround their heads are a golden brown color, while the rest of their bodies are a dark brown color.
Because of their one-of-a-kind coloring pattern, it is simple to recognize them even from a distance.
The name of the bird comes from the Latin word “aureus,” which literally translates to “gold.”
In addition to that, they are well-known for having long legs and a wing span that may reach approximately 9 feet.
They are among the biggest prey birds that may be found anywhere on the globe.
Golden eagles may be found in a variety of habitats, each of which results in a unique coloring pattern on its feathers.
In some places, they have a vivid yellow color, while in others, they have a dark brown tone.
It is well knowledge that golden eagles are among the most formidable predators in the area, having the ability to take down even enormous animals such as moose, deer, and elk.
When hunting, they will swoop down on their target and launch a frontal assault on it.
Golden eagles are able to take down prey that is far bigger than themselves because of this approach.
Carcass is the primary component of their food, followed by insects, amphibians, fish, reptiles, and sometimes smaller species of mammals and birds.
They are able to survive in a variety of environments, including arid regions and agricultural land.
11. Bald Eagle
The American Bald Eagle is among the oldest species of birds still in existence today, having been documented as having first appeared in 1680.
They have a presence across the entirety of North America, from Canada to Alaska.
It’s possible for a male Bald Eagle to reach a height of around 4 feet and weigh up to 8 pounds.
Women typically weigh significantly less than half of that amount and stand between three and four inches shorter than men.
Because of the dazzling white patches that were seen on their heads, they were given the name “white spot,” which derives from an ancient English phrase.
The majority of adults have bodies that are a shade or two darker than gray, but young eagles are born having white heads and the tips of their tails before gaining black patches over the course of the following few months.
Additionally, they are distinguished by the fact that they have a “curved beak,” which contributes to their overall appearance.
Small fish that are found near the water’s surface are their preferred food, although they will also consume smaller animals and wading birds.
They make their homes in the regions bordered by rivers, lakes, the sea, and wetland areas.
12. Crested Caracara
Because of the coloring, it is simple to tell them apart from other species that are visually similar.
They have legs that are yellow-orange, a beak that is gray, a face that is yellow-orange, and legs that are black on a white background.
In most cases, their weight ranges from 1.0 to 1.4 kilograms (2.5 to 3.0 pounds), and their wingspans range from 121 to 126 centimeters.
Carcasses make up the majority of their diet, although they may also sometimes ingest live prey, which can include various types of reptiles, fish, amphibians, and small mammals.
They are often observed either soaring over expansive expanses of water or perched high up in the limbs of trees.
Open forested regions, such as golf courses, farms, and grasslands, are ideal habitats for this type of bird.
However, it may also be seen nesting on tall trees, such as those that are found beside lakes and rivers.
13. Black Vulture
One of the most eye-catching birds anyone has ever observed is the black vulture.
It has no hair on its head, which is covered in dark skin, and its whole body is covered with dark plumage.
Their height ranges from 22 to 29 inches, while their wingspans range from 51 to 66 inches.
Carrion, which refers to the animal remains that are left behind by predators, is their preferred source of nutrition.
When searching for food, black vultures prefer open regions, including fields and roadside ditches.
However, they will only nest in thickets.
14. Turkey Vulture
Turkey vulture is among the most common birds in the state of Michigan and ranks among the most common birds across the United States overall.
Turkey Vultures have gray plumage covering almost all of the undersides of their wings, and when they fly, their wings are slightly raised, resembling the letter “V.”
Turkey Vultures are found in North America.
They have red feathers on their heads, but the remainder of their bodies are covered in black feathers.
Their bills have a pinkish hue to them.
The maximum length that one of these birds can attain is between 32 and 36 inches, and they can weigh about three lbs and wing span of nearly six feet.
The majority of their diet consists of carrion, which they are able to locate from many miles away.
These birds of prey are able to locate dead meat from a distance of eight miles away thanks to their highly developed smell sense.
They find it easiest to search for prey when flying over wide areas, such as deserts, countryside, forests, and foothills.
15. Red-Tailed Hawk
It is among the most easily recognizable characteristics of red-tailed hawks is their long, forked tail.
They are available in a range of hues, including white, black, brown, and various shades of black and gray.
However, I was surprised to find that each shade had a few nuances that set it apart from the others.
There is a vast range of coloration and patterning seen in red-tailed hawks.
In addition, they have a white underside, black shoulder lines, and a reddish spot on their wings.
The tip of their tail is also reddish. In addition to it, the top of their skull has a characteristic pattern.
They have a bright red stripe that goes down the side of their face and over their neck.
This spot extends all the way down onto their stomach and chest.
Adult males may grow to be up to 47 centimeters long and weigh approximately 2.4 kilograms, while adult females can grow to be up to 42 centimeters long and weigh about 1.7 kilograms.
The term “red-tailed hawk” comes from the fact that this species of hawk has a tail that resembles a “red flag.”
Although it mostly feeds on tiny rodents like chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and the like, this bird has been known to consume other animals, including fish, reptiles, insects, amphibians, and birds.
In their natural habitats, red-tailed hawks may be found in open regions such as savannas, grasslands, prairies, meadows, and the forested slopes of hills.
Nevertheless, there are people who call urbanized areas, such as suburbs and cities, their homes.
These birds of prey often make their nests atop elevated objects such as towers, utility poles, and skyscrapers.
16. Broad Wings Falcon
The size of the broad-winged hawk, along with its long wings and unique flight pattern, makes it simple to recognize.
The majority of their body is brown, with the exception of its neck, head, breasts, and stomach, all of which are lighter in color.
This is the shortest species of hawk that can be found in Michigan.
On the underside of the wing tips of adult broad-wings, there is a rusty barring that runs horizontally, but in juvenile birds, the excepting runs vertically.
Juveniles appear similar to adults when they are first born but develop adult coloring as they grow older.
Adults possess darker stomachs and chests, and the undersides of tails are typically barred with white and black.
Broad-winged hawks measure around 12 and 19 inches long. They weigh 10.1 to 19.8 lbs based on their sex, size, and age. Their mean weight is 13.3 pounds.
A female weighs around 14.8 pounds, whereas males normally weigh 17 pounds.
A guy measures around 16.6 inches long, whereas females measure 16 inches.
Females are often a touch more petite than their male counterparts.
Males typically weigh approximately 2 oz less than their female counterparts.
The wing span of the broad-winged hawk may vary anywhere from 33 to 38 inches.
Hawks with broad wings are predatory birds that feed largely on rodents and other small animals.
They hunt mostly during the hours of daylight.
Nestlings, amphibians, eggs, young birds, insects, reptiles, and even certain invertebrates like snails are all part of their diet.
They prefer to make their homes in woods, namely deciduous or mixed forests, as opposed to the more common coniferous forests.
17. Rough-legged Hawk
The sight of a rough-legged hawk is one of the most recognizable features in all of North America.
They may be discovered all across the continent and can be found living in large parts of both Canada and the United States.
There are two variations of color: bright and dark.
The light variant has a chest that is covered in brilliant spots, a belly that is darker, and a wrist patch beneath the wing that is black.
The dark morphs feature a white wrist patch in addition to a chest that is dark and a belly that is dark.
There is usually a black area on the top side of the wing, although even the lighter individuals have some lighter spots.
The two genders share an appearance.
They have a wing spread that ranges between 46 and 56 inches, a length that ranges from 18 to 24 inches, and a weight that ranges between 1.7 and 3.5 pounds.
Rough-legged Hawks are omnivores, which means that they consume both plant and animal matter in their diet.
The majority of this bird’s diet consists of rodents.
On occasion, however, it will consume lemmings, insects, and even the eggs or young of other birds or mammals, including but not limited to squirrels, frogs, ducks, mice, and voles.
During the winter months, they can be found in open areas, particularly coastal prairies and grassland.
They do so in the Arctic, more specifically in the tundra region of that continent.
18. Red Shoulders Hawk
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a prey bird that can be found all over South America and Central America.
It is medium size. They are most commonly seen either singly or in pairs.
The upper chest of a Red-shouldered Hawk is barred with rufous.
Hawks that have reached adulthood are brightly colored, with white -and-black chequéd wings and reddish-brown barred chests.
The tail is mostly black, with a few thin white bands here and there.
The upper parts of the young are brown, while the underparts are white and marked with brown streaks.
At each stage, the tips of the wings have a crescent, pale, thin shape that runs along the edge.
They range in length from 16 to 25 inches and weigh anywhere between 1 and 1.5 pounds.
The width of their wings can range from 88 to 127 centimeters.
They consume a wide variety of foods, but their primary diet consists of rodents and insects.
Mice, frogs, lizards, rabbits, snakes, rats, beetles, squirrels, grasshoppers, moths, crickets, snails, and butterflies are all part of their diet.
They also eat snakes and lizards.
However, in addition to fruit and carrion, they eat fish, eggs, and birds.
When it is hunting, it hunts by flying low over open fields and roads in search of prey. Because of its lengthy legs, it can travel over relatively short distances.
It is common to see them perching on telephone lines and fence posts.
The Red-shouldered Hawk spends most of its time in the forest.
It is most common in deciduous woods that have an open subcanopy, although it has been seen to appear in suburban forests on occasion.
19. Sharp-shinned Hawk
The sharp-shinned hawk is a raptor that is between small and medium in size and has a distinguishing outline.
It has a huge head that is shaped like a triangle.
Its back has a dark gray color, it possesses an orange stripe across its upper breast, and its stomach is white.
It has a long tail that is striped in a dark color.
It has a lengthy and elongated beak. Because of the webbed feet on its feet, it is able to walk on water.
Males often have bigger bodies than their female counterparts.
They may be up to 13.5 inches long and weigh between 3.1 to 8.2 pounds.
Their wing span might vary anywhere from 7 to 57 centimeters.
The majority of their diet consists of tiny birds, ranging in size from that of a sparrow to a robin.
It will, on occasion, consume fewer bats, rodents, and bigger insects, as well as higher quantities of bats.
In forested settings, you may usually find sharp-shinned hawks living close to large bodies of water like rivers, lakes, or streams.
They like deciduous trees, particularly ones with a thick canopy of leaves.
20. Cooper’s Hawk
Although it is among the most stunning birds of prey across Michigan, Cooper’s hawk is also one of the Michigan’s most endangered species.
The stunning plumage of the Cooper’s Hawk is one of the species’ most recognizable traits.
Their backs and wings are blackish-blue and feature white dots down their flanks.
But what really differentiates them is the look in their eyes.
Cooper’s hawks have vivid red eyes, in contrast to the red eyes of most other birds of prey, which are often a darker shade.
Because of this pigmentation, they are able to improve their vision in low-light environments.
During flying, they exhibit crescent-shaped transparent patches that encircle their wings. These patches are see-through.
They may range in length from 15 to 19 inches, weight from 8 to 27 pounds, and wing spread from 24 to 35 inches.
In the state of Michigan, Cooper’s hawks are among the most frequent species of raptors.
They pursue prey, including chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and rabbits, among other small animals.
Their food is mostly composed of insects, such as crickets and grasshoppers, among other kinds.
In the state of Michigan, there are less than 200 breeding pairs remaining.
This type of bird may be found all across North America, however, it likes to live in woodland environments.
Hawks, eagles, falcons, and other raptors can be seen all over the Great Lakes state of Michigan.
Due to their isolation from human populations, only few people have heard of these stunning animals.
You can still see these remarkable creatures up close and personal at a number of locations around the world.
The great spots to see these magnificent predators are in protected areas like national parks and wildlife refuges.
If you enjoy being outdoors but are worried about what may fly over your head, we have written a helpful guide for you.
Which Michigan bird has the largest wingspan?
Sandhill cranes have been around for over 2.5 million years, making them the oldest surviving bird species. The cranes can reach a height of five feet and have a wingspan of six or seven feet, making them the state’s largest bird.
Name the predatory bird that strikes the most fear in its prey.
Because of its talons, curved, sharp beak, and aggressive hunting style, this bird is among the most dangerous in the world. The great horned owl gets its name from the two hornlike tufts of feathers on its head.