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Raptors

A Bald Eagle perched atop a branch.Hawks, eagles and falcons are raptors.  Raptors are excellent predators that have strong grasping feet with sharp talons, a hooked upper beak and superb vision.

 

American Kestrel  American Kestrels are known as "sparrow hawks" because of their size.  They are the smallest and most common falcon in North Dakota. They are easily identified by the two black stripes that run vertically on each side of both eyes and the rust colored back and tail.  American Kestrels generally feed on large insects during the summer and on mice and small birds during the winter.  They are cavity nesters who will used natural or man-made holes.

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Bald Eagle  The Bald Eagle is a large bird of prey.  It is easily identified by it's white head and tail, which do not appear until the eagle is about 4 years old.  Bald Eagles feed mainly on fish but will also eat injured animals and roadkill, especially during the winter.  Nesting generally begins in March or early April.  The Bald Eagle usually uses the same nest site every year but continues to add layers to it, resulting in very large nests as the years go by.

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Cooper's Hawk  The Cooper's Hawk is very similar to the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Northern Goshawk and they can be difficult to identify in the field. They are generally found in the Pembina Hills, the Turtle Mountains, and the wooded valleys of the Missouri, Sheyenne, and Red rivers in North Dakota.  They prefer to feed on medium-sized birds and small mammals.  They can usually be seen in North Dakota from April to October.

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Red-Tailed Hawk  One of the most commonly known hawk in North America.  It prefers a variety of habitats, including pastures and cropland interspersed with trees.  It can usually be seen in North Dakota from March until early October.

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Rough-Legged Hawk  Generally a tame hawk, the rough-legged hawk will often allow humans within a fairly close distance.  They are identified by their yellow legs that are feathered to the toes, a dark belly band, black patches at their wrists, and a black band at the base of their tails.  They usually arrive in North Dakota in October, after leaving their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska.

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Swainson's Hawk  The Swainson's Hawk resembles the red-tailed hawk, but it has a dark bib that runs from it's throat to about mid-breast.  They can be found in grasslands, small open woodlands, and some croplands hunting for large insects and small rodents.  They can usually be seen in North Dakota from late March until late September.

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Last Updated: Mar 10, 2014
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