Other Raptors

There are several other birds of prey often lumped in with hawks and falcons. However, they are not as closely related from a scientific perspective.

Black Vulture walking on the ground © Derek Allad
Black Vulture © Derek Allad

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

The Black Vulture is similar to the more common Turkey Vulture, but can quickly be identified by its white wingtips. Mature adults have black faces, unlike the bright red seen on Turkey Vultures.

Although still uncommon in most of the state, there are areas in western Massachusetts where Black Vultures are routinely seen—and may well be breeding.

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Turkey Vulture on a tree branch © Verne Arnold
Turkey Vulture © Verne Arnold

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Soaring silently overhead, Turkey Vultures have become a fairly common sight in the Northeast. Whether flying over cities, open fields, or forests, you can identify this species by its distinctive profile—a pronounced dihedral (wings lifted above the body), rocking back and forth in the air currents.

Turkey Vultures are one of the earliest migrants to return to Massachusetts, often showing up in late February.

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Osprey with fish flying over water © Andrew Chin
Osprey © Andrew Chin

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Also known as the "Fish Hawk" or "Sea Hawk," the Osprey is now a relatively common breeder along the coast. Its dramatic black-and-white plumage and long wings make it unmistakable.

Osprey feed almost exclusively on fish, and can be seen hovering over the water before making a spectacular dive to capture its prey. 

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Bald Eagle © Joseph Cavanaugh
Bald Eagle © Joseph Cavanaugh

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The Bald Eagle was once extirpated from Massachusetts, but in 1982 an innovative reintroduction program was initiated at Quabbin Reservoir. Then in 1989, two pairs of eagles were the first to nest in the state in over 75 years.

Adults show the iconic white head and tail, but young birds do not reach adulthood until their fourth year and are overall dark with varying patches of white.

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Northern Harrier preparing to take off © Paul McCarthy
Northern Harrier © Paul McCarthy

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

The Northern Harrier is most often seen on the wing as it flies low over open country. Its owl-like face and white rump patch are the best field marks for identification. 

This is the only harrier species that breeds the US. If you wish to see a Northern Harrier in Massachusetts, head to a location that features areas of open grassland and marsh.

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