Birds of prey are carnivorous birds that prey on small mammals, fish, snakes and other birds. British Columbia's mountainous and forest terrains provide birds of prey with sites for nesting and hunting. These birds use their powerful beaks and talons to grasp and mangle their prey. Once they make their catch, birds of prey return to their nests and offer food to their young. Most British Columbia birds of prey are migratory, making this Canadian province their summer or winter residence.
British Columbia is home to two species of eagles, the bald eagle and golden eagle. Eagles generally have larger bodies and beaks and wider wingspans than other birds of prey in British Columbia. Both bald and golden eagles build their nests, or aeries, on the top of cliffs and large treetops. The larger of the two species, the bald eagle, lives in British Columbia coastal regions throughout the year. During the summer, bald eagles venture into British Columbia's interior areas. Bald eagles may be identified by their heads, which have completely white feathers. Golden eagles have primarily brown feathers and live in British Columbia throughout the year.
Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey and tend to have more slender shoulders than eagles. Some of British Columbia's hawks are the red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, Cooper's hawk and sharp-shinned hawk. The most common hawk in British Columbia, the red-tailed hawk, is primarily seen in the southern regions of the province. Cooper's hawks generally stay in British Columbia during the winter for the breeding season. Hawks have keen eyesight and are able to see potential prey from hundreds of feet in the air. When courting, males and females will glide around each other before mating.
Some of the fastest birds of prey in the world are falcons. This bird's speed is largely due to its thin, tapered wings, which allow falcons to fly at high speeds without wind friction. Falcons are the only birds of prey that kill prey by using their beaks, not their talons. The peregrine falcon, a British Columbia native, is the fastest bird in the world. These birds have been recorded going more than 175 miles per hour when they dive down for their prey. Other falcons in British Columbia are the gyrfalcon, American kestrel, merlin and prairie falcon.
Ospreys are birds of prey that live near large saltwater or freshwater bodies of water. These birds primarily feed on fish. Due to their diet requirements, most ospreys nest near the coastal regions and water inlets of southern British Columbia. Ospreys are one of the larger birds of prey, with wingspans of 6 to 7 feet on average. These birds are highly migratory and are in British Columbia in the summer when temperatures are warmer.
- British Columbia Ministry of Environment: Status of the Bald Eagle in British Columbia; D.A. Blood and G.G. Anweiler; February 1994
- British Columbia Wildlife: Red-tailed Hawk
- Outdoor Alabama: Cooper's Hawk
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Peregrine Falcon Facts
- Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research: Life of the Osprey in Southern British Columbia; Chris Steeger; October 2003
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