All 7 Birds of Prey in Georgia! (Species ID Guide) (2024)


Georgia, otherwise known as the Peach State, features a mild climate, natural terrains, and striking landscape – ideal conditions to nurture many exotic wildlife. Birds of prey in Georgia flourish in this beautiful climate.

Georgia is a must-go location for anyone looking to learn about the appearance, characteristics, behavior, and hunting techniques of the native hawks, owls, and eagles that reside in the state’s natural ecosystem.

So, whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or a novice wildlife fan, this guide will provide basic and interesting information and insights about the birds of prey in Georgia.

Read on to be fascinated by some of the most captivating birds of prey that rule the skies of Georgia!

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1. Red-Shouldered Hawk


Red-Shouldered Hawk Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Buteo lineatus
  • Size: 16.9-24.0in (43-61cm)
  • Weight: 17.1-27.3oz (486-774g)
  • Wingspan: 37.0-43.7in (94-111cm)
  • Life span: 19 years
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Boasting a remarkable wingspan and royal presence, the red-shouldered hawk can be commonly spotted in Georgia throughout the year.

Named after a copper-red patch on its shoulder, the feathers of this majestic bird are typically black and white with a brownish head and pale reddish streaks on its barred rufous underside.

The most significant and distinguishing physical characteristic of the red-shouldered hawk is its strongly banded and lengthy tail.

When in flight, these hawks exhibit a distinctive ‘reaching’ pose and utter a unique ‘kee-aah’ whistled sound.

The red-shouldered hawk resides in deciduous swamps/rivers and bottomland hardwood forests where sufficient food and shelter is available.

If you’re looking for these hawks, Jekyll Island in Georgia is an excellent ecological area to spot them.

However, red-shouldered hawks are territorial birds and don’t appreciate human presence, so they do not stay in or disturb their habitat.

In terms of diet, the red-shouldered hawk is an expert hunting bird.

It mostly preys on small mammals like mice, voles, and moles by perching silently on tall trees and dropping directly onto unsuspecting prey, a unique hunting style.

When small mammal populations are low in winter, these hawks consume small birds and crayfish.

The red-shouldered hawk flaunts a fascinating and unique mating ritual during the mating season.

Its breeding season usually begins in April, and couples prefer building nests in mixed wooded trees adjacent to water bodies.

Although the red-shouldered hawk population declined because of deforestation and the clearing of old-growth woodlands, conservation efforts that began in the 1950s, along with laws to prevent the hunting of these birds, helped maintain their numbers.

Moreover, the discontinuation of some pesticides, such as DDT, also aided the recovery of their numbers and habitat.

2. Red-Tailed Hawk


Red-Tailed Hawk Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Size: 19.7-25.6in (50-65cm)
  • Weight: 31.8-51.5oz (900-1460g)
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4in (114-133cm)
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The red-tailed hawk is another majestic bird of prey in Georgia and the second-largest member of the Buteo family all over North America.

Present throughout the year, the red-tailed hawk is among the most widely dispersed raptors in the continent, with 14 different subspecies that differ mainly in color and size.

What sets this particular species apart is its wide rounded wings, brown back, pale underbelly, and short red tail.

The red-tailed hawk has a striking call which is what you usually hear in Western flicks!

These big-bodied raptors are extremely adaptable and can usually be spotted perched on fence posts and pastures or in deserts, scrublands, parks, or fields.

Although they have no preferred habitat, red-tailed hawks mostly build nests in the tallest trees and will reuse them in their next breeding season.

If you’re looking for one, they’re common in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.

Red-tailed hawks are skilled hunters and mostly feed on small animals, including rats, voles, and rabbits. Occasionally, they also consume smaller birds.

Highly skilled hunters, these hawks circle the skies 20-50 meters above the ground and use trees to conceal themselves and as launching pads for diving at unsuspecting prey.

Regarding mating, breeding season starts in February, during which the male red-tailed hawk accomplishes remarkable aerial displays to impress its chosen female.

This includes soaring high in the sky and diving beside the female or bringing them prey as a token of affection.

Over the last 100 years, the distribution range of the red-tailed hawk has increased, mainly because of logging, which has converted dense woodlands into fragmented woodlands.

However, unlawful shootings and poisoning activities seriously threaten the red-tailed hawk population.

3. Cooper’s Hawk


Cooper’s Hawk Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Size: 14.6-15.3in (37-39cm)
  • Weight: 7.8-14.5oz (220-410g)
  • Wingspan: 24.4-35.4in (62-90cm)
  • Lifespan: 12 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The Cooper’s hawk is known for its remarkable flying abilities, agility, and exceptional capability to hunt prey considerably larger than itself, which is why it is generally perceived as a ‘birdfeeders’ predator.’

It has a medium-sized steely blue-gray body, wide rounded wings, a long tail with dark bars, and distinctive reddish-brown streaks on its underbelly and chest.

A Cooper’s hawk sounds similar to an alarm call that goes “kuck, kuck, kuck” or “cak-cak-cak.”

They usually inhabit wooded areas and build nests in tall trees, often on top of pre-existing bird nests or other structures.

To spot a Cooper’s hawk in Georgia, visit the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, and the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.

As we mentioned earlier, apart from small mammals such as voles and mice, these raptors often consume birds larger than themselves, such as songbirds.

This is why they usually lurk in backyards or fly in a flap-flap-glide pattern around bird feeders.

Common prey includes mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, and European starlings.

They hunt these birds by grasping them mid-air or ambushing them as they perch on branches.

During the breeding season, which generally begins in March, male Cooper’s hawks execute striking aerial displays to attract females.

After forming a pair, they signify their territory by soaring around their nest, making slow, deliberate wingbeats.

Over the past century, the Cooper’s hawk population has witnessed significant fluctuations, such as a three-fold increase followed by a substantial decrease due to hunting.

Although the population increased again after a hunting ban, the use of DDT caused another massive decline in their numbers.

Their population seems stable; however, prey poisoning is the main cause of this raptor’s premature death.

4. Great Horned Owl


Great Horned Owl Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 17 to 25 in (43 to 64cm)
  • Weight: 32.1 to 88.2oz (910 to 2500g)
  • Wingspan: 39.8 and 57.1in (101 and 145cm)
  • Lifespan: 25 – 50 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The great horned owl is next on our list of birds of prey in Georgia.

These raptors are considerably large, with fierce-looking eyes and lengthy tufts of feathers (plumicorns) resembling horns on their head.

The great horned owl has a unique look that makes it fairly easy to spot – an orange-colored face with black and white tiger-like lines.

A master of camouflage, there are parallel bars on its underbelly that resemble tree branches when seen from below and streaks of tree colors that give a leafy appearance when seen from above.

Known for its adaptability, the great horned owl is routinely seen in various habitats.

Some of the best places to spot this bird in Georgia include hardwood forests, mature pines, swamps and marshes, river bottoms, urban/suburban areas, and agricultural lands such as orchards, farms, and vineyards.

Males have a low-pitched territorial call compared to females, often heard from miles away during the night.

The great horned owl is an extremely opportunistic and versatile bird of prey, hunting mainly at night and using its sharp talons to capture prey.

Although its diet depends on the season and availability of prey, its main food sources are small mammals such as mice, rabbits, and voles.

In addition, these owls feed on larger animals such as reptiles, birds, insects, amphibians, and various invertebrates.

Fun Fact: great horned owls’ sense of smell is weak, so they also attack and eat skunks!

Regarding mating, the great horned owl begins its selection process in January. Male owls allure females with aerial displays and find suitable nesting sites.

These species prefer to use other large birds’ abandoned nests and adjust in caves, cliffs, and even cacti.

Although not a threatened species, the great horned owl’s population has witnessed a substantial decrease over the past 40 years.

Unfortunately, most owl deaths are due to human activities, such as shootings, car accidents, electrocution on power lines, and being poisoned by pesticides.

5. Eastern Screech-Owl


Eastern Screech-Owl Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Megascops asio
  • Size: 6.5 to 10in (16 to 25 cm)
  • Weight: 4.25 to 8.5oz (121 to 244g)
  • Wingspan: 18 to 24 in (46 to 61cm)
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Short, sturdy, and neckless, the versatile eastern screech-owl is widely present throughout the Eastern states.

This species features two distinct color alterations based on the woodlands where they reside – the southern populations have a deep, reddish hue.

In contrast, the northern populations have more shadowy, grayish feathers.

Eastern screech-owls inhabit wooded areas in Georgia.

These raptors have remarkably adapted to humans; hence, they’re often seen perched on streetlamps near busy roads and highways and even inside spaces in urban buildings.

The songs and calls of these owls vary considerably; however, their most popular hoot is an even-pitched trill known as a tremolo that lasts for about three to six seconds.

Known to be adaptable predators, eastern screech-owls feed on many different types of prey.

These are primarily small mammals such as mice, voles, rats, and shrews in Georgia.

Moreover, they also consume insects, predominantly moths, beetles, and other invertebrates such as worms, spiders, and snails.

Eastern screech-owls also hunt birds, reptiles, and amphibians and opportunistically consume berries and fruits. Most of the hunting is done at night while using their keen hearing.

Since they are typically solitary birds, eastern screech-owls only form pairs during mating season in April.

The owls establish lifelong bonds and build nests inside hollow tree trunks.

They are generally monogamous; however, some males mate with multiple females.

Fortunately, the eastern screech-owl is not considered endangered. However, it is susceptible to poisoning and habitat destruction.

6. Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
  • Size: 14.2 and 19.3in (36 and 49cm)
  • Weight: 18.7 to 56.4oz (530 to 1600g)
  • Wingspan: 39.4 to 43.3in (100 to 110cm)
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

If the cheetah is the fastest animal on land, the Peregrine falcon is undoubtedly the fastest in the skies!

When Peregrine falcons dive, they can attain speeds of up to 200 mph, and considering that they start their journey from an altitude of about 3000 ft, they cruise at high speeds for a substantial distance.

Both male and female Peregrine falcons have a slate gray/bluish-black back with light-colored barring.

Their chests range from white to tan and feature thin, dark lines. Young Peregrine falcons are usually browner than adults, and females are larger than males.

They generally don’t make loud noises, except for an alarm call that sounds like ‘kack-kack-kack’ around their nesting site.

Peregrine falcons are found easily throughout Georgia, and their preference for making nests on the edges of tall buildings makes them quite common in cities.

As for their prey, Peregrine falcons mainly feed on other birds; approximately 450 different kinds of birds are documented as their prey, including gulls, ducks, pigeons, and songbirds.

The breeding season of Peregrine falcons is late March.

The male puts on an aerial courtship display to allure a female falcon to a collection of possible nesting sites for her to choose from.

Once paired, Peregrines usually mate for life and return to the same nesting spot yearly.

Peregrine falcons are categorized as a rare species under Georgia Law and are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

7. Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Size: 27.9 to 37.8in (71 to 96cm)
  • Weight: 105.8 to 222.2oz (3000 to 6300g)
  • Wingspan: 80.3in (204 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20-30 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The national bird of the United States since 1782 and undoubtedly the most recognizable among all birds of prey in Georgia is the bald eagle.

Fun Fact: did you know that the word ‘bald’ doesn’t imply that these eagles don’t have feathers on their head?

It’s obvious that there are glossy white feathers on a bald eagle’s head! Their name originates from the Old English word ‘piebald’ meaning ‘white patch.’

However, the eagles don’t attain their characteristic white head and dark brown bodies until they are five years old.

In their early years, bald eagles have different plumages with streaky brown and white lines on their bodies.

Even their beaks change color as they grow! As for their call, they sound more like an eagle with whistles and trills.

Bald eagles are commonly found in forests around large water bodies because of their love of fish. You can spot them around lakes, marshes, coasts, and rivers.

As for their mating season, it begins in October. Bald eagles usually build nests in tall, mature trees such as conifers, oaks, firs, hickories, aspens, and cottonwoods.

They ensure the trees have strong, broad forks to keep the nests safe and stable.

Although the bald eagle was officially declared endangered in 1967, this majestic and royal bird of prey has fortunately made a remarkable comeback from the verge of extinction.

The dilemma of the bald eagle pushed the United States to pass the Endangered Species Act.

All Birds of Prey in Georgia


The birds of prey ruling the skies of Georgia help enhance its beautiful landscape and helps maintain the intricate balance of the ecosystem.

From their remarkable physical characteristics to their exceptional hunting skills, these birds are proof of the wonders of the natural world.

To ensure these amazing birds of prey maintain their populations for years to come, we must safeguard their habitats and motivate our future generations to appreciate and cherish these wildlife wonders.

Happy birdwatching!

FAQs About Birds of Prey in Georgia


What types of birds of prey can be found in Georgia?

Eagles, Owls, Falcons, and Vultures are among Georgia’s prominent birds of prey.

How do birds of prey hunt in Georgia?

Birds of prey in Georgia use various hunting techniques, such as soaring at great heights, rapid dives, and accurate swoops to grab unsuspecting prey.

Are any birds of prey in Georgia endangered?

No, all the birds in Georgia are classified as Least Concern.

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