Raptor Identification

How To Identify A 'Bird Of Prey'

Raptors, also commonly referred to as 'birds of prey', include species like the Owl, Eagle, Falcon, Hawk, Osprey and more.

The apex-predator of the bird world, they hunt and feed on other birds, small mammals & marsupials, large reptiles, fish, etc.

Often distinguishable by their talons, beaks and wing-span.


Even the most experienced raptor handler risks serious injury - even death - when handling these birds.  If you've found an injured bird, and it is a Raptor - or if you cannot dismiss that it isn't - then do not attempt to assist it or pick it up.  Immediately call a qualified raptor carer for help...

Raptor Talons

Powerful Owl
Black Kite
Barking Owl

The large, strong and piercing claws of a Raptor are called Talons.  Talons are the primary hunting tool for Raptors, whereas for other birds it is their beak which is the primary hunting tool.

Often capturing their prey 'on the wing' (i.e. while in-flight) using their talons, a Raptor's powerful feet often visually reflect their strength in the apparent thickness of their legs; though not always, such as with Kites whose legs are less bulky.

Raptor Beaks

Boobook Owl
Black Kite
Barking Owl

Raptors have beaks made for puncturing and tearing - note the 'hook' at the front of the upper beak in the above pictures.  With their prey securely held by their talons, using their hook and powerful beaks, they tear away at the meat of their prey.

Common Mis-Identifications

Commonly, a Tawny Frogmouth is incorrectly thought to be an Owl, but in fact it is not and thus it is not a Raptor.  Perhaps such a mistake is due to its similarities to Owls; like its tawny markings and its big eyes used for it nocturnal habits (hunting, etc).

Here we compare a Barking Owl (left) against a Tawny Frogmouth (right).

The difference is evident between their beaks and their feet.  The Tawny has a wide mouth without a hook - suitable for capturing flying insects while in-flight (i.e. the mouth being primary hunting tool and not its feet).

While this may help you to win some points at the next Trivia Night at your local, this knowledge is also very important when you've found an injured bird, as handling requirements are very different and you will need to reach out to the most appropriate carer for assistance.