4 Birds of Prey in Wisconsin (WI)

Birds of prey are the creatures that are also known as raptors, birds of prey that are found in Wisconsin due to their location near the shore and its climate. 

Here are some of the most common birds of prey in Wisconsin.

Rough-legged BuzzardRough-legged Buzzard
Black-crowned night HeronBlack-crowned night Heron
Bald eagleBald eagle
Great Gray OwlGreat Gray Owl

Birds of Prey in Wisconsin

1. Rough-legged Buzzard

Rough-legged Buzzard

The scientific name for this bird of prey is Buteo lagopus, and the length of this bird of prey is about 55 cm.

It weighs about 1 kg -1.3 kg, and its wingspan is about 135 cm.


The sexual morphology of rough-legged buzzards varies. Comparatively speaking, females are larger and heavier than men. Additionally, they have a single broad tail terminal band and a sizable black belly patch.

Compared to females, males have smaller belly patches and thinner tail bands. Both sexes have pale underparts and black and spotted top parts. Given that the tail has a white base, the top portion of the tail contrasts with the black back.


Rough-legged Buzzards live in open spaces and agricultural areas. These raptors can be seen in greater numbers in open areas like grasslands and savannahs.

These birds construct their nests among trees or on a ledge that overlooks a wide expanse of grassland. They do this to make it simpler for them to seek animals for their offspring.

When they fly, their wings are raised in a little V-shape.

These raptors hunt by flying in the direction of the wind. Then they hover while looking for food. They usually perch on tree branches and power wires to look for food.

Typically, they consume small animals, including rabbits, mice, and voles. They can also consume other animals, such as earthworms.

When a pair of rough-legged hawks locates a good location on a rocky cliff, they work cooperatively to construct a nest.

Most of the building materials are carried by the males, and the females build the nest out of twigs, grass, molted feathers, and prey fur.

Sometimes even non-living things, like caribou bones, are included in nests.

Once a year, generally between April and June, rough-legged hawks breed. However, mating has also been observed in July.

Each clutch contains 2 to 7 eggs, and it takes at least 31 days for the eggs to hatch.

2. Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned night Heron

The scientific name for this raptor is Nycticorax nycticorax.

The body of this bird of prey has a length of about 23 – 28 inches, its wingspan is about 4 feet, and they possess a heavy and stocky body.

Small-sized night herons include Black-Crowned Night-Herons. Their eyes are red, and their skulls are enormous and broad.

Their wings are curving and broad, along with their big, pointed beak. Their legs appear short and hardly reach the tail’s end when they are flying.

Adults have a black backs, and the rest of their bodies are white or grey.


Although the herons eat mostly fish, they have a rather varied diet.

In addition to other things, they also consume carrion, insects, and frogs. Eggs and young birds of different species are some additional items they can eat.

The colonies of other birds suffer as a result.

These birds can be found in a variety of freshwater and saltwater habitats.

The birds construct their nests in tree trunks or beneath grass to avoid predators. Sticks and twigs are used to build the nests. In 24 – 26 days, the chicks hatch.

The eggs are incubated by both parents, who also feed the chicks their own vomit.

In colonies, black-crowned night herons will frequently nest alongside other birds like ibises and other herons. In 42 – 49 days, the chicks will fledge.

3. Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

The scientific name for this bird of prey is Haliaeetus leucocoephalus.

This raptor has a length of about 28 – 40 inches and weighs approximately about 3 – 7 kg (6.5 – 15lbs), and its wingspan extends from 71 – 91 inches.

In Wisconsin, the Bald Eagle is arguably the most recognizable raptor. 


The “bald” part of their name refers to their entire face being covered in white feathers; there are no bald spots anywhere on an eagle’s face.

In reality, the word “piebald,” which means “white patch” and alludes to their brilliant white heads, is whence they get their name.

It is easy to identify a Bald eagle when it is fully grown, but it might be challenging when they are young.

It takes these eagles until they are five years old before they develop their distinctive white head and dark brown body.

These birds have a variety of diverse plumages and white and brown streaks on their bodies up until that point. Their beaks’ colors even fluctuate.


The Bald Eagle consumes a variety of foods, that includes smaller birds, fish, and leftovers from picnic spots and camping trips.

Infrequent predatory strikes on huge birds like the Snow Goose, Great Blue Heron, or even swans have been documented, albeit most prey is far smaller than the eagle.

Quite a large number of salmon and trout have also been caught.

This raptor dives over the water and its prey out of the water with its talons to catch fish, easily their most significant live prey.

They rip the fish’s flesh with one claw while holding the fish with the other.

Bald Eagles typically make their enormous nests out of branches in large trees close to water.

The nest might measure up to eight feet broad and weigh a ton (907kg).

The Bald Eagle will build its nest on the ground if it is breeding in an area without any trees. When an eagle reaches breeding age, it frequently returns to its birthplace.

An adult Bald Eagle hunting for a site will probably choose a location with other breeding Bald Eagles.

Bald eagles reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 or 5. Between one and three eggs are laid by eagles each year. However, it is uncommon for all three to survive to fly.

4. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl

The scientific name for this bird is Strix nebulosa.

This raptor is considered one of the largest raptors in Wisconsin as this bird has a length of about 34 – 33 inches and weighs approximately about 580 – 1900 grams, and its wingspan is about 5 feet (1.5 meters).


The Great Gray Owl is a dusty grey tint, with a broad, flat face disc and no ear tufts.

The Great Gray Owl appears to be wearing a bow tie due to a black area on its chin that is encircled on either side by white spots.

The Great Gray Owl can be found from Alaska to Canada, as well as in Europe and Asia.

In Canada and the western United States, mountain woods are where you can find the Great Gray Owl.

It prefers to build its nest in big, old pine and fir trees that are located distant from populated areas. 

The Great Gray Owl may reside on woodland edges that border hunting grounds during the winter.

Small rodents like voles and pocket gophers make up the majority of the Great Gray Owl’s diet.

On rare occasions, it will also consume birds and small animals like shrews.

The Great Gray Owl hunts by perching on a tree above an open space.

The owl’s keen hearing enables it to detect prey precisely beneath many feet of snow.

The Great Gray Owl leaps into the snow from its perch to grasp its meal.

Depending on the temperature in its environment, the Great Gray Owl lays eggs from March to June.

The female lays 2 to 5 white eggs in a stick nest. For around 28 days, the female incubates the eggs. Both parents feed their children, chopping the food in advance.

The chicks start to learn how to fly once their down is replaced by real feathers.

Check out this article on Birds of Prey in Ontario.


The birds of prey or raptors that are found in Wisconsin include Owls, Eagles, and Hawks, all of them belonging to different classes and varying in their coloration.

The Bald Eagle, when mature, is easily identified, but it’s hard to recognize a young one.

Similarly, there is a difference in the coloration amongst these raptors, and their sizes differ as well.

The Great Gray Owl is one of the largest raptors to be seen in Wisconsin.

Despite all these differences, they still share some common traits when it comes to their diet and nutrition.


What is the scientific name for the Rough-Legged Buzzard?

The scientific name for the Rough-Legged Buzzard is Buteo lagopus.

Which raptor is considered to be the largest in Wisconsin?

The Great Gray Owl is considered one of the largest raptors in Wisconsin.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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