Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Relatives)

So this is the largest family within the Accipitriformes order, with approximately 250 species within the family.

Bald Eagle flying over Boomer Lake

Geographically they are found globally (with the exception of Antarctica), and within a wide variety of habitats ranging from the tundra to tropical rainforests, to deserts, to grasslands, and forests.

Since this is such a large family of birds, it isn’t surprising that there is also extensive range in the size of the raptors. They can range from size from the small pearl kite (which is only about eight inches in length) to the harpy eagle (which is about three and half feet in length).

While they’re ‘raptors’ and hunt–there is a large variety in terms of prey.

A large percentage hunt birds, fish, and small mammals. While others go after insects, the Old World vultures feed on carrion, and several others will supplement their diet with fruits or honeycomb.

Mississippi Kite eating a dragonfly (probably)

Depending on the species, the young can reach sexual maturity in as quickly as a year (though they may not select a mate for another year or so), or it can take upwards of five plus years for the bird to reach sexual maturity. They usually mate for life (again depends on the species), and at times return to the same nesting territory year after year.

Since it takes quite a few years for the birds to reach sexual maturity–they also usually have a small brood size once they do take a mate. The brood size ranges from one to six eggs, with the eggs being laid at intervals. Depending on the food availability, older chicks may kill off their younger siblings to ensure that they get the food. The young usually don’t leave the month for several months (which means that breeding season for members of this family can range from several months to upwards of a year), which is one reason for their low reproductive rate.

Red-shouldered Hawks at Boomer Lake

Numerous species are on the endangered species list for one reason or another (loss of habitat, pesticide poisoning, illegal poaching, and illegal wildlife trade for example). Two eagles within the US have been able to make a comeback from the edge of extinction due to both conservation efforts and the endangered species act, and they were the bald eagle and the golden eagle.

Again, the members of this family that can be spotted within North America (US, Canada, and Mexico) include:

Bald Eagle

Golden Eagle

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern Harrier

Hook-billed Kite

White-tailed Kite

Snail Kite

Mississippi Kite

Common Black Hawk

Harris Hawk

Gray Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Short-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

White-tailed Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Since there are so many members of this family, my photography goals are as follow:

Try to get a picture of a Harpy Eagle in the Wild (means a trip to South America, and then a hike within the rainforest with hopes of catching a glimpse of one).

Getting a picture (or two) of a member from each continent.

Getting a picture of a golden eagle (hopefully both perched and then in flight).

Total bucket list goal: getting a picture of all members found within North America, and then at least three members on every other continent.

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