January 17, 2019 4 min read

Birds of prey are an incredible sight for any nature enthusiast. These medium to large-sized birds have a hooked bill, sharp talons, astonishing eyesight and sensational senses that help them to hunt down mammals, insects, and even other birds.

Otherwise known as "raptors," many species of birds of prey have been driven almost to extinction over the years. Fortunately, fantastic efforts by conservation charities have seen a resurgence in our bird population. In fact, if you have a keen eye, you might be able to spot some in your local town.

Here's a bird's eye view of some of the top 10 British birds of prey, and how you can identify them.

  1. Buzzard (Buteo Buteo)

Looking for a bird that makes sounds like a cat? The British Buzzard has a unique call, perfect for accompanying its incredible appearance. Though only a mid-sized hawk, the Buzzard has a wingspan of up to 4ft and 6 inches and can appear in colours all the way from deep brunette to snowy white.

Though they're often labelled as lazy, thanks to their habit of sitting around waiting for prey to come to them, Buzzards are fast. They're great at rollercoaster-like antics designed to impress the ladies.

  1. Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus Albicilla)

The sea eagle sometimes referred to as the "flying barn door," is one of the largest British birds of prey. This fantastic bird has an 8-foot wingspan and distinctive tail tips that turn white after reaching adulthood.

Sea Eagles were only reintroduced back into the west coast of Scotland a short while ago, in the 1970s, after they had been absent from the highlands for almost 70 years. Since then, numbers have successfully begun to grow.

  1. Golden Eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos)

Known for their connotations with power and elegance, golden eagles are a beautiful sight for any enthusiast. These eagles are incredibly strong, with a wingspan of around 7 feet, and you're most likely to spot one when you're hiking through the Scottish Highlands.

For such a large bird, the golden eagle doesn't let its height slow it down. It can stoop to capture its prey at a rate of 120 miles per hour!

  1. Osprey (Pandion Haliaeetus)

Talk about impressive. The Osprey is one of the most attractive birds of prey on this list, and it knows it. This unique bird swoops down over bodies of water to capture its prey. Ospreys crash into bodies of water feet-first and still manage to look elegant when they remerge with fish in their talons.

You can see these summer visitors in England and Scotland this year, but the best place to spot an Osprey is in Scotland.

  1. Red Kite (Milvus Milvus)

Plenty of the birds on this list are reclusive loners. The red kite is the life of the party. Years ago, this bird lived by scavenging food from men in local towns. Now, they're just as cheeky as ever and often venture into Wales for the occasional bite to eat.

Red Kites have a 5-foot wingspan, a long forked tail, and a russet-coloured plumage. They're the dragon-like mascot of Wales. Like dragons, they're known for eating almost anything, including small birds, mammals, and even lambs.

  1. Kestrel (Falco Tinnunculus)

The Kestrel was once the most common raptor in Britain, but its numbers are in decline. Some conservationists believe that the bird is being bullied out of Scotland by Buzzards.

This chestnut-coloured falcon is an expert at hanging in the area when hunting its prey. Kestrels can remain almost completely still as they hover, making them look as though they've been suspended in the atmosphere by strings.

  1. Merlin (Falco Columbarius)

This falcon might be small, but it's got a big attitude. Merlins will happily intimidate buzzards, ravens, and any other bird that flies their way with a constant chittering.

Merlins often hunt larks and other smaller birds - particularly during the spring months. This raptor is also known from plucking their prey out of their nests and making their own homes on the ground, rather than in high-up spaces.

  1. Montagu's Harrier (Circus Pygargus)

One of the rarest birds on our list, the Montagu Harrier sometimes appears in the south of England, when it travels back from its vacations in Africa to breed.

Montagu's Harrier is like the hen harrier in frame and colouring. In fact, the male even has a black bar on its wings. This bird also hunts similar prey to other harriers, including small birds and mammals.

  1. Goshawk (Accipiter Gentillis)

The intimidating gaze of the grey Goshawk is one of its most unique features. Those golden eyes seem to look straight through you. Bird watchers can also distinguish the Goshawk by its yellow legs, and short, powerful wings.

The favourite bird of the falconer, the Goshawk isn't afraid of anything. This bird will tackle anything from a full-grown hare to another bird that happens to get in its way.

  1. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter Nisus)

Finally, the Sparrowhawk is the smallest hawk in Britain, but whatever you do, don't call it cute. This hawk spends its time terrorising garden birds across Britain and hunting woodland animals. The bird has a diet including 120 different species of other birds.

While the Sparrowhawk is small, it has seriously big lungs. This bird is well known for its noisy mating ritual, and even louder hungry nestlings.

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