Falcons, Hawks, Kites and Osprey
Many people lump falcons, hawks, kites and osprey under the title of hawks; however, these raptors are very different in shape and size.
Falcons, such as the Peregrine Falcon, have a short wingspan of about two to three feet. Their wings when spread are pointed. Peregrines usually nest on cliffs near water but have adapted to the encroachment of cities by building nests on the sides or tops of skyscrapers. Peregrines are the birds trained throughout history for hunting.
The American Kestrel is another common falcon. Kestrels are much smaller with a wingspread of approximately 24 inches. They have colorful feathers around their head. Kestrels are cavity nesters, building nests in hollow trees, and holes in cliffs and even fabricated nesting boxes.
Hawks are the most commonly seen raptor in the United States. These raptors are fond of hunting near fields, along highway green areas and near farmlands. Hawks have broad wings with definite fingering at the ends. Their wing spread ranges from around 2 1/2 to 4 feet.
The easiest hawk to identify is the Red-tailed Hawk, with its mahogany red tail. Other common hawks found in the U.S. are the Goshawk, Cooper's Hawk, and the Northern Harrier, as well as the Red-shouldered and Broad-wing hawks.
Ospreys, which are also known as sea hawks, nest along the shore of rivers and the ocean. Osprey, unlike eagles, dive into the water to catch their prey.
Kites are not common across the United States. There are three groups, each with their own territory: The Swallow-tailed found in the southeastern U.S., the Mississippi Kite, found in the Gulf coast and Mississippi River and the White-tailed Kite found along the southwest. Kites have forked or split tails, long, pointed wings and nest in colonies. They eat small birds, reptiles and amphibians. Their wingspan is approximately three to four feet long.