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Birds Of Prey Orange County

Birds Of Prey Orange County
If you have lived in Orange County for a time. You probably noticed a few birds flying in the air around your homes, canyons, highways, and oceans. With the great environmental factors of a great climate and a variety of food sources from the water, land, and air, the chances of seeing an array of different birds of prey are pretty high. Here are the lists of birds of prey in Orange County.

Table of Contents

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. They can reach speeds of 70 mph. They eat small insects, butterflies, and small birds. These wild birds can be found hovering over open fields and grasslands. They have two black spots on the back of its head. It is believed to be a deterrent for other birds of prey to not attack them since they look like they are always watching them.


Bald Eagle

Now I have not had the fortune to see any Bald Eagles in Orange County, but Orange County Bird of Prey Center (OCBPC) staff have stated that they have reappeared in Orange County. Their natural habitat in Orange County was in Laguna Beach, but because of the chemical DDT, the population was wiped out. DDT caused the eggs shells of the Bald Eagle to thin and not be able to incubate. Today there have been 10 confirmed sightings of the Bald Eagle. You can see these raptors during the winter.

FYI, the Bald Eagle is still federally protected. If you see any of the eagle bird feathers lying around do not touch them. It is an automatic felony to possess Bald Eagle feathers.

Barn Owl

The barn owl is very different from other owls found in Orange County. Most owl’s feathers are dark and used as camouflage. The Barn Owl has a white patch with some brown spots on its chest. They are found year-round in Southern California. You can identify the barn owl by its loud screeching after the sun goes down. These raptors can be found living in barn attics or tree cavities. They mostly feed on small rodents and small mammals. Barn Owls can be found in open spaces.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls are very small. They are the same size as a squirrel. They live in holes in the ground that are dug up by ground squirrels or prairie dogs. They are in Southern California year-round. They eat insects and small rodents. The owl is also very skittish since they have a lot of different predators hunting them. It is not easy to see them since they perch low to the ground and blend into their surroundings really well. They can be found in grasslands, deserts, and other open spaces. Unfortunately, the burrowing owl population is shrinking. Their habitat is shrinking because of housing developments in Orange County.

Cooper's Hawks

The Cooper’s Hawks are not as big as the red-tailed hawks you find in Orange County. Do not let their small size fool you. These hawks are master predators. They feed other birds. You can find them perched on trees, on walls, in neighborhoods, in wetlands, and in open fields. You can also find Cooper’s Hawk in your backyard watching for small birds at your bird feeder. I have seen Cooper’s Hawk quite a few times in my backyard. They can be found year-round.

Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawks can be seen during the winter season. The hawk dines on small mammals and is seen perched on a lone tree or high in the sky. They look like Red Tailed hawks, but with more white tail feathers. The Ferruginous Hawks and the Rough Legged Hawks are the only American hawks to have feathered legs all the way down to their toes. They are the largest American hawk.

Golden Eagle

The Golden Eagle is hard to miss if you see them in Orange County. These massive birds of prey have broad wings. Their wing span is close to 8 feet. They are a rare sight to see. The Golden eagle prey on deer, rodents, birds, and small animals. Golden Eagles are here year-round and can be found in the Santa Ana mountains or flying over the city of Irvine. The way you can identify the Golden Eagles is by its large bodies and plank-like wings. They look like 2×4’s.

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species in Orange County. They are fierce predators that can take down large prey. The Great Horned Owl has a scary yellow-eyed stare and a deep hooting voice. You can’t miss these wild raptors when they are flying in the night. They can be found in backyards, wetlands, grasslands, cities, and dense forests. These owls will eat rodents, frogs, scorpions, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, and other Owls. They are magnificent creatures.


Merlins are small and fierce falcons. They take down songbirds, shorebirds, and bats. They are powerful flyers. Medieval falconers call them “lady hawks”. They can be found around neighborhoods and cities. These falcons take over the nest of other raptors and crows.


Peregrine Falcon

They are considered the fastest animal on the planet. These beautiful raptors can reach a speed of 200 mph when diving for prey. This wild raptor can be seen flying around lakes, harbors, cities, Santiago Peak, Irvine Lake, and Bolsa Chica. They were nearly eradicated in North America because of DDT, but their populations have rebounded.

Red Shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawks are commonly seen in Orange County. They are confused with other hawks in the area. You can differentiate the Red Shouldered Hawk from the other hawks by its banded white tail feathers. Red Shouldered Hawks are typically found in the forest areas of the county hunting rodents and frogs.

Red-Tailed Hawk

One of the most common hawks you will see in Orange County. You will commonly see them flying in big circles if you are driving on the freeways or toll roads. I have seen them occasionally at a few Orange County parks. These birds of prey love high perches overlooking the fields. They prey on rabbits, snakes, rodents, and squirrels.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Sharp Shinned hawks are the smallest hawks in North America. They are daring and acrobatic fliers. These raptors have a distinctive look. The Sharp Shinned hawk has long legs, short wings, and very long tails. They use their long tails to navigate hunting in the woods at top speed for songbirds and mice. Sharp Shinned. Hawks can be found in Orange County except during the breeding season. They head north to Canada.

Western Screech Owl

They are much smaller compared to the Great Horned and Barn Owl. They are less commonly seen in Orange County. If you happen to find them in Orange County they may be in a tree cavity. These birds of prey do not screech. They make a short series of hoots. These raptors love eating worms, bats, and rats. You can find them in residential areas and Orange County parks. You will never see these birds due to their inclusiveness and camouflage.


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Howard Chung

Howard Chung

Hey Orange County, I’m Howard Chung! I'm here to share weekly information about the best events, restaurants, shopping and activities in and around Orange County, California. Plus, the best hiking, biking, health and wellness options, new hot spots, and more! Click below to follow us.


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