Just yesterday, my wife mentioned seeing a large bird of prey swooping into the backyard. Our two cats were getting their “outside time” and dove into the bushes. 

The bird had a white chest with brownish specks on its chest. We looked it up online and found that it is the number one, most commonly seen bird of prey in North Central Washington - The Red-tailed Hawk. 

After getting the cats inside, we witnessed the Red-tailed hawk digging and clawing into the backyard lawn - seemingly looking for worms (?)

These birds of prey play a vital role in the local ecosystem and are a source of fascination for birders and non-birders alike.

Here are the most common birds of prey in North Central Washington:


1 - Red-tailed Hawk

Doing some research - your cat or dog isn’t necessarily in danger of this 4 to 5-pound bird. Red-tailed hawks swoop down (up to 120 mph) to mainly capture small rodents. If your pet is as small as a squirrel, keep an eye out.

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A Red-tailed Hawk (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)


2 - Bald Eagle

The adult bald eagle - with its white head, white tail feathers, and bright golden beak is the most easy to identify bird of prey. This majestic bird - the symbol of America - typically lives for 20 to 30 years in the wild. The American Bald Eagle (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Robert Laberge/Getty Images

3 - Northern Goshawk

Hunts by perching quietly at mid-levels in trees - on the lookout for unsuspecting small birds - even larger birds such as grouse and the common crow. Goshawks also prey on squirrels, rabbits, and snowshoe hares. snakes, and insects.

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A view of Stella the Goshawk onstage at 'H is for Hawk: A New Chapter' for PBS (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images


4 - Golden Eagle

Known as the big boy of the bunch - it's just as large as the Bald Eagle.

But the Golden Eagle preys upon larger animals, like foxes and even young deer on occasion. Its main diet is mainly small mammals, lizards, small birds, and insects.


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The Golden Eagle CREDIT: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images


5 - American Kestrel

They look for their prey from a tree top or the ledge of a high cliff - then zoom down to grab insects, birds, or bats in flight.

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American Kestrel CREDIT: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images


6 - Osprey

Common here in North Central Washington lakes, and rivers - the Osprey is often seen flying over the water - then plunging feet-first to catch fish. Bald Eagles sometimes chase Ospreys and force them to drop their catch. In several places - from Leavenworth to the Wenatchee Valley - landowners and business owners make nesting sites high up and near the river.

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Getty Images


7 - Northern Harrier

Visually, it has the appearance of an owl. Much like owls it hunts while soaring high or low levels - or from a tree top. Unlike owls, the Northern Harrier relies not on sight - but by its great sense of hearing. The Harrier will hop down to ground level - listen for small mammals coming to the surface of its hole and snag a meal. Its diet is mainly small mammals and birds.

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Northern Harrier CREDIT: David McNew/Getty Images for Lumix


8 - Great Horned Owl

Hunts mostly at night, sometimes at dusk. Watches from a high perch - then swoops down to capture small mammals, some birds - up to the size of geese (!) ducks, hawks, and smaller owls.

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


9- Cooper's Hawk

A medium-sized hawk of the woodlands. Feeds on birds and small mammals, it hunts by stealth, approaching its prey through dense cover before pouncing.


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Cooper's Hawk CREDIT: David McNew/Getty Image



INFO: NCW Audubon

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