USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons of North Dakota


Hawks and Eagles

Family Accipitridae

Members of the genus Buteo, or soaring hawks, which can be found in North Dakota include the red-tailed hawk, Swainson's hawk, ferruginous hawk, rough-legged hawk, and broad-winged hawk. these are the most commonly observed hawks.

They have broad, rounded wings and broad tawils, which are usually spread as they fly. They are often seen soaring high above grasslands and agricultural areas taking advantage of rising air currents as they hunt. It is also common to see them perched on utility poles, fence posts, and hay bales.

Members of the genus Accipiter are usually smaller and better adapted for agile flight through dense brush and trees where they are most often observed. Their wings are shorter and more rounded and their tails are usually longer than members of the genus Buteo. Many accipiters feed on songbirds more than other hawks, but they will also prey on mammals such as tree squirrels. When flying in the open, they have a distinctive flight pattern of alternately flapping their wings, then gliding a short distance. Members of the genus Accipiter which can be found in North Dakota include the sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, and northern goshawk.


Family Pandionidae

One species makes up the family Pandionidae and that is the osprey. It is a specialized fish-catching hawk and has a number of anatomical distinctions indicating it has pursued its own evolutionary course. For these reasons, it has been placed in a separate fannily from the hawks and eagles.

New World Vultures

Family Cathartidae

Besides possessing the three characteristics to be classified as a raptor, vultures also have a keen sense of smell that helps them in finding carrion (dead animals).


Family Falconidae

The falcons found in North Dakota are members of the genus Falco. The genus contains mostly medium-sized falcons, but varies from the large peregrine falcon to the small American kestrel. The wings are long and pointed and used almost continuously during flight. The bill is short, powerful, and with a distinct 'tooth' on each side. Most falcons of this group have a black teardrop-shaped 'mustache' mark on each side of the head. Falcons are fastflying birds of open country and are famous for attaining high speeds as they dive from high altitudes to knock birds out of the air. Members of the genus Falco which can be found in North Dakota include the prairie falcon, merlin, American kestrel, and peregrine falcon.

Previous Section -- Introduction
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Red-Tailed Hawk

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:31:15 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww55]