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Five of the Largest Birds of Prey From Canada

The article is a Canadian online writer whose articles cover various facets of Canada.

Canada is home to five humongous birds

Canada is home to five humongous birds

An Amazing Story

I heard a story a couple of months ago that amazed me. It was a true story (those are the best ones) about an eagle. This story takes place in Vancouver somewhere. It was rumoured that there were bald eagles that would swoop down and grab a small dog or cat. My friend who told me the story said that it was commonplace for small dogs and cats to go missing and it was always thought that these animals were being taken by someone. No one could figure out the mystery. Until one day, someone happened to find the nesting ground of a bald eagle and found it full of dog tags and bones. Quite interesting indeed!

The Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is the largest bird of prey, weighing around 7 kgs and measuring from wing to wing, a span of over 2 meters long. Females tend to be slightly larger than males on average, and the bald eagles in the north are larger than the southern eagles found in the United States.

Bald eagles have large beaks that they use for tearing apart their prey. They also use their large talons and feet ridged with small spikes, called spicules, to grab their prey. They feast on fish, aquatic birds, small mammals, and even dead carcasses if they are hungry. They have also been known to steal away food from other birds and scavenge when necessary, which is most common with juvenile eagles.

Bald eagles live mainly in British Columbia, Canada but can also be found in northern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northwestern Ontario. They can also be found in smaller groups in Cape Breton and along the Newfoundland coast. In the United States, the bald eagle nests still in more than half of all the states. Unfortunately, the bald eagle has become endangered in 48 states in the United States and in parts of Southern Ontario and New Brunswick.

The Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is a beautiful and majestic-looking bird. The hawk, from below, looks as though he has a red, fanned tail and appears to be gliding. The male's wingspan averages 125 cm long, while the females are twenty-five percent larger. A male weighs in at 1300 grams while a female can weigh up to 2000 grams. He is called the red-tailed hawk because of the red tail seen from below while he is in flight.

The red-tailed hawk is a carnivore and feasts on small prey like rodents of all kinds such as mice, chipmunks, rats, and moles but will also eat rabbits, snakes, bats, and waterfowl. He can be seen swooping around pursuing his prey circling from above and using his keen eyesight to his advantage.

His hooked beak helps him to pull apart his prey for his meal, along with his sharp talons, that grip and have captured the meal.

The red-tailed hawk is found all over North America and can live in various climates including deserts, tropical rainforests, coniferous forests, deciduous forests, and even in urban areas. It is legally protected in Canada, the United States, and Mexico by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The red-tailed hawk is also considered sacred by some Native Americans.

The Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture

The turkey vulture is one of those ugly birds that you often see at the side of the road feasting on road kill. The typical male has a wingspan of 183 cm long and weighs 1.4 kg with the females being slightly larger. The adult's head appears to be much smaller in proportion to the rest of his body and is red in colour. He also has a short hooked beak with perforated nostrils. Although they have large feet, they are not equipped to grab or grip as they are not sharp enough for this. It takes a lot of effort for the turkey vulture to fly, he flaps his wings at lift off while hopping with his feet, when he takes off he leaves his wings out and appears to soar, tipping from side to side.

He feeds mainly on a wide variety of carrion while preferring those that have just died. They rarely eat vegetation but have been known to eat on occasion shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, and other crops. They also will eat fish that are dead and have washed up onto the shore. They generally fly low to the ground in search of food and use their keen smell to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by caused by decay.

The turkey vulture is found living in the southern areas of Canada and spans down to the southern tip of South America. He inhabits subtropical forests, pasture lands, shrublands, and deserts.

The Wild Turkey

The wild turkey is not a part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal although comes from the same family as the domestic turkey. Adult wild turkeys have black bodies and a long fanned tail and appear to have a hunched back. The male is much larger than the female in comparison, with the male being 5-11kg and the female being 3-5.4 kg. The wingspan ranges from 1.25 meters to 1.44 meters in length. The largest wild turkey recorded by the National Wild Turkey Federation was 38lbs or 17.2 kg.

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These beasts are omnivorous and will forage on the ground and climb small trees to eat. They feast on nuts, acorns, berries, seeds, roots, insects, and even small reptiles such as snakes and lizards. They have also been known to eat different types of grasses and in rare cases will visit backyard bird feeders.

The wild turkey is native to North America and found mainly in the east, spanning from Ontario down into Florida.

The Great Grey Owl

The owl, known for its spectacular and eerie hoot, nocturnal nature, and wisdom is one of the most interesting birds! The great grey owl is one of the world's largest of the hundreds of breeds. He weighs slightly less than his female counterpart at 1290 grams while she weighs 1454 grams. The wingspan averages 140cm for males and 152 for females.

This owl tends to fly close to the ground and hunts mainly in the wee hours of the morning and late afternoon hours. Owls are often spotted sitting on a fence post perched and waiting for prey. They like to hunt small rodents and will even from time to time hunt other birds. In the winter the grey owl listens for his prey and plunges into the snow to capture it.

The great grey owl is found in Alaska and along the mid-northern line spanning over to Ontario and New Brunswick and down to Minnesota. They can also be found in northern Europe and Asia. Thankfully, they are not endangered or threatened with endangerment.


Steph0596 (author) from Ontario on February 12, 2013:

Thank you so much Peter! They are beautiful and fascinating creatures.

Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on February 12, 2013:

Dear steph0596,

Thank you for a very interesting article on large birds in Canada.

I used to visit Canada several times a year for a couple of decades and was always fascinated by the varied wildlife. I remember driving, one day, from Fort Frances to Marathon but across country rather than along the Trans Canada Highway. On the way I stopped to watch a huge eagle being mobbed by what looked like half a dozen crows and he/she was getting the worst of it. Eagles are quite rare in the UK and I will miss my Canadian trips since retiring middle of last year.

Voted up awesome and beautiful

Kind regards Peter

Steph0596 (author) from Ontario on September 12, 2011:

Wow, that would be crazy! I guess it just reminds us that we are still pretty vulnerable to the elements, and animals being one of them, are driven by survival instincts.

William Benner from Savannah GA. on September 07, 2011:

the story about the Bald Eagle remind me of a similar experience I had on the street I lived in Glendale CA. The coyotes would often kill cats or even grab small dogs off of leashes while they were being walked! If wild animals get hungry enough,it is hard to say what they might do, especially if they lost their fear of humans!

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