All 13 Birds of Prey in Ohio! (Species ID Guide) (2024)


As per the OOS (Ohio ornithological society) bird checklist, there are 448 bird species, including birds of prey in Ohio as of July 2023.

This list includes various raptors, such as owls, falcons, hawks, vultures, kites, and eagles.

These extraordinary birds thrive in the diverse landscape of the Buckeye State and play an important role in balancing and maintaining its ecosystem.

If you’re interested in birdwatching and are eager to discover the amazing birds of prey in Ohio, this detailed ID guide is just what you need!

Before you scroll further down this guide, check out these other animal-related articles: Best Bird Rescues in Ohio and Best German Shepherd Rescues in Ohio.

1. Barred Owl


Barred Owl Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Size: 16 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 1.39-1.76 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 38 to 49 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

We start our list with the majestic Barred Owl that gets its name from its light and dark brown and white striped plumage all over its body.

Known by various names – Northern Barred Owl, Hoot Owl, and Eight-Hooter Owl – this raptor features round heads, stocky bodies, rounded tails, and a bright yellow beak.

Their eyes are pitch black and appear slightly scary on their beautiful pale faces.

Barred Owls are extremely curious creatures; you might also catch them observing you! They prefer inhabiting mature forests, especially those bordering swamps.

Their diet primarily includes small rodents such as rats and mice.

However, they also hunt bats, rabbits, moles, squirrels, weasels, minks, opossums, birds, snakes, frogs, turtles, snakes, fish, and even juicy insects.

2. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Size: 12 and 16 inches
  • Weight: 0.55 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 2 ft. 10-3 ft. 4 inches
  • Lifespan: 10-30 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Not to be confused with the Great-Horned Owl that bears large feathery ear tufts, the Long-Eared Owl is much smaller and lankier.

This well-camouflaged owl is an infrequent visitor in Ohio and is commonly spotted during winter or migration season.

Distinctive elongated tufts of feathers on their ears make them quite easily identifiable.

Like other owl species, Long-Eared Owls can fly silently because of the fringes on their flight feathers.

These raptors elusively and expertly catch prey in pitch darkness due to their sharp sense of hearing.

Long-Eared Owls inhabit dense wooded foliage but hunt in open fields. Their prey consists mainly of small rodents and animals that live in surrounding grasslands.  

3. Short-Eared Owl


Short-Eared Owls Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 14–17 inches
  • Weight: 0.45-1.04 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 34–40 inches
  • Lifespan: more than 12 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Short-Eared Owls have light-brown plumage with black streaks all over their bodies.

These birds of prey have pale faces with characteristic yellow eyes highlighted by black half-circles.

Their breasts have heavy brown streaks, and their chests and underbelly can be pale or buffy.

These raptors are commonly spotted in open landscapes, such as farmlands and fallow land, and around urban areas, including airports.

They are migratory birds and come to Ohio from the Arctic Tundra in October to stay for the winter.

Unlike most owl species, Short-Eared Owls are not entirely nocturnal and can remain active during the day; however, they prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk.

Their hunting tactic involves flying low in open areas.

They mainly eat rodents, especially voles, and other small mammals, including mice, rats, shrews, ground squirrels, bats, moles, and muskrats.

4. Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Ictinia mississippiensis
  • Size: 13-17 inches
  • Weight: 0.79 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 34-37 inches
  • Lifespan: 11 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Mississippi Kites are relatively small and slender raptors with red eyes featuring dark patches, light gray heads, and small, dark robustly-hooked bills.

Their upper and lower bodies are dark gray and light gray, respectively, with dark gray primary wings, white secondary wings, and black wingtips.

Their tails are long and dark, and their feet and legs are red.   

You can spot Mississippi Kites in thick old-growth hardwood forests, small woodland forests in the prairies, and tree-lined urban areas such as shelterbelts, windbreaks, golf courses, and city parks.

They prefer to sail in the wind and catch and eat their prey mid-air, including large insects like beetles and grasshoppers.

Occasionally, they perch on trees and skyscrapers and hunt small birds, snag snakes, lizards, fish, and frogs.

5. Swallow-Tailed Kite


Swallow-Tailed Kite Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Elanoides forficatus
  • Size: 19–25 inches
  • Weight: 0.97 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 45–50 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Conservational Status: Endangered and Rare in some States

Swallow-Tailed Kites are rare birds of prey in Ohio and are occasionally spotted during migration season.

These raptors have large, slender bodies with a distinguishing forked tail that resembles a Swallow, hence their name.

Their heads and underparts are white, their flight feathers, bills, feet, and tail are black, and their underwings are mixed.

Swallow-Tailed Kites are well-known for their aerial acrobats; they turn, twist, roll, and dive as they scour for prey.

These birds inhabit marshes, swamps, and humid, lowland forests. They are commonly perched on tall trees in open areas with abundant prey.

A Swallow-Tailed Kite’s main diet includes insects such as wasps, dragonflies, bees, cicadas, crickets, and beetles.

However, it also hunts frogs, lizards, small snakes, and birds while diving from treetops.

6. White-Tailed Kite

White-Tailed Kite Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Elanus leucurus
  • Size: 15-17 inches
  • Weight: 0.75 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 40-42 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

White-Tailed Kites are rare in Ohio and are called an ‘accidental’ species. So, spotting them would be something amazing!

These small raptors have narrow, white faces and underparts, dark gray wings, and, as the name suggests, short, square, and pale whitetails.

They have red eyes and black hooked bills, and their wings flaunt gray and black patches at the shoulders and a white and gray underside.

White-Tailed Kites are commonly spotted in open grasslands such as deserts, savannahs, cultivated fields, and partially cleared lands.

Their usual meal includes rodents such as field mice, voles, gophers, small birds, lizards, frogs, and snakes.

In addition, these Kites also hunt flying insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles while in flight.

7. Turkey Vulture


Turkey Vulture Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
  • Size: 25.2 to 31.9 inches
  • Weight: 4.41 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 66.9 to 70.1 inches
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The Turkey Vulture, commonly known as the Turkey Buzzard, is among the most common vulture species in the United States.

Named due to their resemblance to Wild Turkey, these raptors are fairly easy to identify because of their black bodies, featherless red head, pinkish beak, and greyish underwings.

Identifying them in flight is also easy – they soar at low altitudes making wobbly circles, and their raised wings resemble the letter ‘V.’

Turkey Vultures are often spotted along roadsides feeding on carrions and dead animals, including reptiles, invertebrates, and other birds.

They also soar the skies in the open countryside, looking for weakened or injured animals.

They hunt using their exceptional sense of smell, allowing them to detect meat as many as eight miles away!

8. Black Vulture

Black Vulture Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Coragyps atratus
  • Size: 22-29 inches
  • Weight: 3.5-6.5 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 51-66 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Black Vultures are common birds of prey in Ohio. Unlike Turkey Vultures, these birds have black-colored heads, short compact bodies, and greyish-silver wingtips.

Their entire plumage is black, and they soar the skies with slightly raised wings resembling the letter ‘V.’  

Black Vultures inhabit both forested and open areas. They commonly nest in dense forests and hunt for carrion along roadsides and open fields.

Black Vultures primarily eat carrion, but since their sense of smell is not as good as Turkey Vultures, they also hunt animals and feed on fresh meat.

Common prey for Black Vultures includes opossums, skunks, and livestock such as calves, baby pigs, and lambs.

9. Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
  • Size: 14.2 to 19.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.17-3.53 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 39.4 to 43.3 inches
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The Peregrine Falcon is hailed as the fastest animal in the world.

It’s not surprising, considering its unique aerodynamically-shaped body allows it to attain speeds of up to 200 mph while nosediving from 3000 ft.!

Peregrine Falcons have greyish-bluish-black bodies with light barring and white-to-tan chests with thin lines. Infants are usually darker than adults.

These raptors are commonly seen in cities since they nest on the corners of tall buildings.

The Peregrine Falcon’s diet consists mainly of other birds – about 450 different types, including gulls, songbirds, pigeons, ducks, doves, grouse, and waterfowls.

However, they are not picky and hunt anything they can pounce on and catch. 

10. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Circus hudsonius
  • Size: 18.1 and 19.7 inches
  • Weight: 0.66-1.65 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 40.2 to 46.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 16 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

Northern Harriers are medium-sized raptors with slender bodies, relatively long, broad wings, and a long tail rounded at the ends.

Their face is flat, like owl-like, with a small, hooked bill.

When Northern Harriers fly, their wings resemble a dihedral V-shape and a white rump patch can be spotted from below.

These birds of prey prefer wide-open habitats such as fields, marshes, and prairie grasslands and are often seen perched on trees or low posts.

Their characteristic foraging technique is slowly flying back and forth close to the ground, watching and listening for small mammals, rodents, birds, and reptiles.

11. Rough-Legged Hawk


Rough-Legged Hawk Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus
  • Size: 18.5-23.5 inches
  • Weight: 1.58-3.09 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 52-54 inches
  • Lifespan: 1.7 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

This relatively large Hawk, also known as the Rough-Legged Buzzard, is easily identified via its dark brown belly and the white underside of its long tail and wide wings.

These raptors are only seen in Ohio when they migrate south for the winter season.

Rough-Legged Hawks have feathers on their legs and feet, unlike most hawk species.

This keeps them warm when they migrate to the Arctic tundra in the summer to breed.

Their preferred foraging technique is perching on a telephone pole or fence post and scanning the horizon for their prey; however, it does hover occasionally.

Like most hawks, Rough-Legged Hawks feed on small rodents, including voles and lemmings.

During winter, small mammals such as shrews and mice are their primary prey, but it doesn’t shy away from taking larger mammals such as rabbits and Arctic Ground Squirrels.

12. Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos
  • Size: 27.6-33.1 inches
  • Weight: 6.61-13.5 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 72.8-86.6 inches
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

The Golden Eagle, a rare visitor in Ohio, is spotted during spring or winter migration.

This raptor is among the fastest and largest in North America, with gleaming gold-brown feathers on the back of its neck and head.

Like the Rough-Legged Hawk, it also has feathered legs down to its toes. 

Golden Eagles avoid human populations and inhabit open forests and mountainous areas.

Their strong legs and long, sharp talons help them catch prey in flight and from the ground.

Although Jack rabbits are their favorite, they also hunt other small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels, and occasionally attack larger mammals.  

13. Red-Tailed Hawk


Red-Tailed Hawk Characteristics:

  • Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Size: 17.7-25.6 inches
  • Weight: 1.52-3.21 lbs.
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 inches
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Conservational Status: Least Concern

And last but not least, among our birds of prey in Ohio is the Red-Tailed Hawk.

These raptors have extremely wide, rounded wings and a characteristic wide, short, and cinnamon-red tail.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the second-largest hawk in the Buteo family, featuring mostly dark-brown backs and heads, pale undersides, and speckled bellies.

Due to their highly adaptable nature, Red-Tailed Hawks have no preferred habitat.

They are often spotted soaring the skies in the countryside and urban areas or perched on fence posts. Their main prey is small rodents.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many birds of prey are in Ohio?

There are around 20 types of birds of prey in the state.

Where do falcons live in Ohio?

A majority of falcons live along Lake Erie.

What’s the most common bird in Ohio?

The mourning dove is the most common bird in the state.

All Birds of Prey in Ohio


There you have it, the 13 most common birds of prey in the State of Ohio.

So, next time you visit the Buckeye State or plan a birdwatching trip with your kids, use this information and the descriptions we’ve listed to help you recognize the majestic raptors that rule the skies!

If you find this guide, “All Birds of Prey in Ohio,” informative and helpful, you can check out these other bird-related articles from our team:

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