Types of Hawks

Often the term hawk is used to describe the group of large birds in the order Falconiforme, which consists of Eagles, Falcons and Hawks. Together with Owls, they are commonly called raptors or birds of prey.
Most raptors are considered indicator species because they occupy a top spot in their ecosystem food chain. Changes in raptor populations often coincides with ecosystem changes.
The five Falconiforme families are listed below, along with an estimate of the number of family species. The types of owls article provides further information on their species.
Sagittariidae: The Secretary Bird of sub-saharan Africa is the only species.
Pandionidae: The Osprey is sole representative of the Pandionidae family, and the only raptor species to rely solely on a fish diet.
Cathartidae: Seven species called New World vultures. Most people known them as vultures and condors. The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), an endangered species, is the largest land bird in the United States. At year end 2008 California Condor population estimates were 154 in captive breeding programs and 168 in the wild.
Falconidae: Most accounts list approximately sixty different species of falcons and caracara around the world. Six falcon species, American Kestrel, Aplomando Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Merlin, Prairie Falcon and Peregrine Falcon are classified as North American native species.
Accipitridae: This family consists of hawks, eagles, kites and old world vultures, among others, with different sources quoting a range between roughly 215-235 different species worldwide. Twenty four species can be found in the United States, including the national bird, the American Bald Eagle. While most Accipitridae nest in trees, their habitat extends to any area that has at least a few trees for nesting, including fields and forests. Their diet consists of a variety of rodents and other small mammals.
Hawk species in the United States normally divide between two genera, buteo and accipiter, with Buteo hawks being the more common. They share many physical similarities with eagles, although they are generally smaller and slower fliers. Most Buteo species live in open area habitat such as grasslands and prairies. The Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Swainson's, and Broad-winged hawks belong to the Buteo genus.
Accipiters are a group of short-winged hawks that live in forest areas. Three species, the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), the Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) and the Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) are the North American representatives of the group.


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