Minnesota has 7 types of birds of prey. They are owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, harriers, ospreys, and kites.
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are a species of birds that hunt and feed on vertebrates and insects and eat meat. They are highly adapted for hunting with features such as powerful eyesight to detect food from afar, talons and strong body build to grasp and kill their prey and curved, strong beaks to tear and severe the prey.
In the North-central region of the United States, birds of prey are highly populated in Minnesota, a reason we feel this area deserves a closer look.
Eagles are one of the largest birds of prey and a common sight in Minnesota. These birds are heavily built and boast long, broad and round wings and enormous feet with strong claws.
Here are the two types of eagles found in Minnesota:
• Bald eagles
The most common eagle type you will find in Minnesota is the bald eagle. This bird is found near lakes and rivers and is amazing to watch, thanks to its white face that beautifully contrasts the rest of the body.
• Golden eagles
Known for being fast and agile hunters, golden eagles are common in Minnesota’s grasslands, woodlands and farmlands. They enjoy preying on rabbits and squirrels. They are dark brown with golden feathers.
Kites are not the strongest birds of prey but are excellent when it comes to preying on insects. Their legs are relatively weak, but they have massive wings that help them soar, an activity they spend most of their time doing.
The Mississippi kites and swallow-tailed kites are the most common Kites species in Minnesota. The former are known for their unique overall shape and swift flight styles that enable them to catch dragonflies and other insects easily. The swallow-tailed kites are the largest kites in North America. Their body color form is quite distinct, with most of their upper part is black, contrasting well with the white face and under part.
The Osprey is a water-loving species known for catching fish. They are exclusive fish eaters and usually hunt them by diving into the water then grabbing a fish that is on sight in an accelerated manner. Ospreys are also excellent at building relatively large stick nests on high trees, cliffs, towers and poles.
Although not full-time inhabitants, ospreys are common breeding residents and migrants in Minnesota. These birds are mainly spotted in early winter along the Mississippi River.
Owls are special birds of prey in many aspects. First, they do their hunting at night and have nocturnal eyesight to support this. The other unique feature of these is their feathers. They are shaped in a perfect streamline to resists turbulence; hence they fly almost silently. Lastly, these birds have acute hearing, but this does not compromise hunting.
Permanent Minnesota owls like the barred owl and the great horned owls can be found anywhere in the state all year round. Migrating species such as the snowy owl and the burrowing owl can be found in isolated locations at various times of the year.
From their hunting skills to their lightening flying speeds, falcons are undoubtedly the most amazing birds of prey. One falcon species, the Peregrine falcon, is the fastest animal on this planet as it has been recorded at speeds of up to 320 km per hour.
Here are the three main types of falcons you will find in Minnesota:
• The peregrine falcons
Luckily, you catch sight of this fast bird in Minnesota. These birds can be found anywhere in this state but prefer inhabiting urban areas where they can nest on the sides of tall buildings.
• American kestrel
This is the smallest falcon you will find in Minnesota. Again they are well distributed in the entire state. The male and female varieties of these birds have striking distinguishing characteristics. The males have a blue or gray wing area and black spots spread on their upper body. Female varieties have a rusty brown look.
Merlins are slightly larger than the American kestrel and boast sharply pointed wings, strong build and medium-length tail. These fierce birds of prey are widespread.
These are medium-sized birds of prey known for their ambush hunting skills. Hawks have long tails for tight steering when doing their dives. They mostly live in woodlands, specifically in concealed perches.
There are so many hawk varieties in Minnesota, most of which are spotted all year round and pretty anywhere in this state. Below are the hawks you won’t miss, with their names speaking volumes about their main characteristics.
• Red-shouldered hawk
• Red-tailed hawks
• Sharp-shinned hawks and
• Rough-legged hawk
Vultures – similar, but not strictly a raptore
These birds are known for their low-level flying skills, thanks to their broad wings. Harriers look more like hawks with strong eyesight and hearing to detect small vertebrates from afar. They also have thin but long legs that enable them to get hold of their prey with ease.
The most common Harrier you will find in Minnesota is the Northern Harrier found in Southwest Minnesota all year round. The bird is distinguishable for its white tail feathers, slim but strong wings and owl-like faces.
Minnesota is a stunning state and the plethora of birds of prey that exist here makes this area exceptional.