Sep 7

Not so much ARKive’s top ten, but rather yours! Followers on Facebook and Twitter have been voting over the past week for their favourite bird of prey, and the results are in.  

Close in the running, but not quite making the bill, the golden eagle, kestrel, snowy owl, lammergeier and gyr falcon. So with these swept aside, lets fly, swoop and dive into your Top Ten Birds of Prey…   

10. Bald eagle

Photo of bald eagle landing

Bald eagle landing

Surprisingly, the National Emblem of the US only comes in at number 10 in our list. The bald eagle is the second largest bird of prey in America, behind the California condor, and is named after its striking white (not bald) head.   

9. African fish eagle

African fish-eagle fishing over lake

African fish-eagle fishing over lake

In sub-Saharan Africa? Near a water body? Hear that “weee-ah hyo-hyo-hyo”? That’ll be the African fish eagle, calling in at number 9 in our list. Usually feeding on live fish, this species may also prey on young water birds, and very occasionally will go for monkeys, crocodile hatchlings, frogs and insects.   

8. Merlin

Merlin pair passing a food item whilst in flight

Merlin pair passing a prey item whilst in flight

The smallest bird of prey here in the UK, the male merlin is just about the size of a blackbird. They may be small, but they are feisty: the merlin will chase off other, much larger birds of prey from its nesting area during the breeding season.   

7. Harpy eagle

Harpy eagle portrait

Harpy eagle

At the top of its food web, the harpy eagle is a fearsome predator, preying on mammals such as sloths and monkeys, large birds and lizards. It’s this predatory behaviour that earned these large eagles their name – drawing comparison to the famous Greek mythological winged monsters.   

6. Sparrowhawk

Eurasian sparrowhawk with pigeon prey

Eurasian sparrowhawk with pigeon prey

Short rounded wings and a long tail enable sparrowhawks, such as the Eurasian sparrowhawk, to fly through small gaps in dense woodland, snatching birds with their powerful talons. This incredible agility can be seen in this jaw-dropping video. Amazing!     

5. Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk in flight over water

Red-tailed hawk in flight over water

If you ever go to New York’s Central Park, look out for Pale Male – possibly the most famous red-tailed hawk going, and a favourite amongst New Yorker twitchers. Away from the city lights, red-tailed hawks are commonly seen soaring high above fields across North America.   

4. Osprey

Osprey in flight carrying fish

Osprey in flight carrying fish

Have you seen this footage of the osprey? It’s the most popular video on ARKive – if you haven’t seen it yet, take a look and see what all the fuss is about! The ospreys alternative name of “fish eagle” seems quite apt after watching that!   

3. Red kite

Red kite feeding on rabbit carcass

Red kite feeding on rabbit carcass

The red kite is a remarkable example of conservation at work here in the United Kingdom. Last Century it became extinct in England and Scotland, and only a few breeding pairs survived in Wales. Reintroductions and increased legal protection means that the red kite is once more a common sight soaring across much of the UK .    

2. Barn owl

Barn owl landing on branch

Barn owl landing on branch

With pure white underparts, a slow, silent flight and and eerie shrieking call, the barn owl has earned a ghostly reputation. Spooking rodents, frogs and insects globally, the barn owl is one of the most wide-ranging birds in the world, found in all continents bar Antarctica.   

 1. Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon ssp. macropus in pursuit of pigeon

Peregrine falcon ssp. macropus in pursuit of pigeon

And diving straight to the front of the avian poll: the peregrine falcon. Blink and you’ll miss it: the peregrine can reach staggering speeds of over 200 miles per hour when diving in pursuit of prey. Its sheer speed and agility is shown superbly in this fantastic high speed chase the pigeon video.   

Those eagle-eyed followers will notice that the popular great horned owl and Harris’s hawk are missing from the list – these non-threatened birds are yet to make an appearance on ARKive – the website is constantly being updated though so watch this space!    

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researcher

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