Georgia Wildlife Web

Home Glossary Classification Conservation Status Regions of Georgia Fishes of Georgia Make a Donation

Order Description


Order Description

This order contains three families, around 76 genera and over 300 species. Two families and 16 species are found in Georgia.

The birds of this order are raptors or birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, kites and falcons. They have strong, curved talons. Their bills have hooked tips, sharp edges and a fleshy cere at the base. Members of this order have keen vision, are strong flyers, and are diurnal hunters. Their diet includes snakes, invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals and carrion. Sexes usually have similar plumage and the female is often larger than the male. One to six eggs are laid in a large, bulky nest. The young are semiprecocial with down and open eyes upon hatching.

Family Accipitridae

Hawks, eagles and kites generally have broader wings than do members of the other family in this order found in Georgia, the Family Falconidae. Kites, however, have narrower wings than do members of the Family Falconidae. These raptors feed on either live prey or carrion. The inside of the eggshell appears greenish. Hawks can squirt feces several feet. Members of this family generally build nests.
Species in this family:
    Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
    Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
    Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
    Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
    Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
    Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
    Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
    Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
    Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
    Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
    Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
    Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
    Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)

Family Cathartidae

Vultures have recently been removed from the order Ciconiiformes to return to the order from Falconiformes. Vultures are well-known scavengers with their bare heads and curved bills. They have weak feet and talons. New World vultures, those that are found in the Untied States, are voiceless.
Species in this family:
    Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
    Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Family Falconidae

Falcons and caracaras are superb flyers and excellent, agile hunters. They have long wings which are usually narrow and pointed. These birds rely more on live prey than carrion. Typical falcons have a bony tubercle in the nostril. The inside of the eggshell appears reddish or buff. Falcons defecate directly below their perch. They do not generally build nests.
Species in this family:
    American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
    Merlin (Falco columbarius)
    Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)