Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey Photographed in Forest, Woodland, and Water Habitat

I’ve lumped ‘birds of prey’ together under revised bird orders1: Accipitriformes (Raptors2 and New World Vultures3), Strigiformes4 (Barn and Typical Owls) and Falconiformes5 (Falcons and Caracaras).

The first gallery feature species from three families placed in the Accipitriformes order: (a) Raptors (Accipitridae) are cosmopolitan birds that occupy mostly forest and wooded habitat; (b) NW vultures (Cathartidae) occupy an extreme range of land habitats in the New World; and (c) Osprey (Pandionidae), there are only four subspecies that inhabit a broad array of coastal and water environments. A supplementary gallery shows the plumage of juvenile, immature and adult white-bellied sea-eagles.

Displayed in the second gallery are typical owls (Strigidae) from the Strigiformes order. These are cosmopolitan birds that occupy terrestrial habitats from Arctic to tropics.

The final gallery features falcons and caracaras (Falconidae), place in Order Falconiformes, inhabit all regions and habitat of the world, except the Antarctic

Raptors, NW Vultures and Osprey

Raptors, NW Vultures and Osprey Notes

Most featured species are currently ‘Red List’ assessed as ‘Least Concern’. Exceptions are the grey-headed fish-eagle, red kite and Andean condor, listed as ‘Near Threatened’ and the Galapagos Hawk listed as ‘Vulnerable’.

Most accipitrids and the osprey exhibit reverse size dimorphism where females are larger than males, while New World vultures only exhibit minimal plumage and size dimorphism, an exception is the Andean condor which exhibits a greater degree of plumage dimorphism. I find sex identification difficult when photographing lone individuals.

Two of my favourite raptor species are the endemic Galapagos hawk because it is one of the few endemic raptors and the fascinating white-bellied sea-eagle that starts with brown plumage changing to white at an age of five to six. The supplementary gallery below shows the plumage of juvenile, immatures and adult birds.

There are many oriental honey-buzzard morphs, so identification of subspecies is difficult.  I think the male is a ‘dark morph’ and the female a ‘normal morph’, probably both ssp torquatus. Males have dark eyes while females have yellow eyes.

I photographed a female variable hawk, ‘pale morph’ at 3812m in the Antisana Ecological Reserve in Ecuador’s high Andes. This high-altitude subspecies occurs between 2800m-5000m. The bird had just pounced on a small animal and was flying away with its prey.

I’ve photographed the displayed species in habitats that included gardens, forest, woodland, often near fresh or saltwater in Australia, England, Singapore, Trinidad, Ecuador, Galapagos and New Zealand. Some species were breeding residents while others were migratory or seasonal visitors.

Plumage of Juvenile, Immature and Adult White-bellied Sea-eagles

White-bellied Sea-eagle Plumage Notes

Images showing phases in plumage from juvenile through first and second year immatures to young-adult and adult which takes around four to five years. Adults breed around six years and they probably have around a 30 years life span.

Typical Owls

Typical Owls Notes

Images of displayed species are currently ‘Red List’ assessed as ‘Least Concern’ exceptions are the grey-headed fish-eagle and red kite listed as ‘Near Threatened’.

I’ve photographed the displayed species in Australia, England, Singapore, Trinidad and New Zealand. Habitats included gardens, forest, woodland, sometimes near freshwater. Some species were breeding residents while others were migratory or seasonal visitors. This nocturnal family of birds can be difficult to photograph as they are often asleep when trying to photograph them.

The Galapagos endemic sub-species is the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus galapagoensis).

Falcons and Caracaras

Falcons and Caracaras Notes

Images of most featured species are currently ‘Red List’ assessed as ‘Least Concern’.

Carunculated Caracara feeding on the ground at Antisana Ecological Reserve in Ecuador. This species normally occurs in treeless areas at 3000m-4000m. I photographed this individual in a large grassy area at 4052m near Lake Mica and Antisana volcano.

I’ve photographed the displayed falcons in England and Ecuador and the Caracaras in Trinidad and Ecuador. Falcons occupy all regions of the world and in most habitats except Antarctic. Caracaras are a subfamily that inhabit the New World.

1 Higher classification of birds and the revised sequence of orders. Ref: Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). (2019). IOC World Bird List (v9.1). doi:  10.14344/IOC.ML.9.1. [online] Available from: and [Accessed 7th June 2019].
2 Raptors include Pandionidae (Osprey) and Accipitridae (Hawks, Kites and Eagles).
3 Cathartidae (New World Vultures) formerly placed in Order Cathartiformes.
4 Both Accipitriformes (Raptors and NW Vultures) and Strigiformes (Owls) are basal members of the Core Landbirds clade, part of the Afroaves clade. 
5 Falcons (Falconiformes) are not related to raptors (Accipitriformes) but part of the Australaves clade.