We could dedicate an entire website to bird identification if we were to list all birds of prey, so we’ll primarily cover birds of prey typically found in Alaska and those most commonly used in falconry.
There are many different birds of prey and the type of prey you want to take and/or are available to you in your area will be the top considerations when selecting a bird you fly. With some exceptions, as an apprentice you will most likely be required by your sponsor to have a Harlan’s Red-Tailed Hawk. This is for very specific reasons. The Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in general, is one of the most hardy birds of prey. They are less susceptible to decease and a lot more forgiving to minor mistakes made by an apprentice falconer. We will cover more about this on the “selecting the right bird” page.
Bird Identification is very important and when looking at a passage bird can be challenging to differeneciate between them.
In the photos below there are two identifying factor that stand out. First is the size, the Harlan’s, a subspecies of the Red-tailed hawk, is slightly smaller and the coloring is slightly different. Both are juveniles but look slightly different. One identifying trait they share is the barred tail.
Juvenile (passage) Harlan’s trapped in interior Alaska
Juvenile (passage) Red-tailed trapped in central Florida
Juvenile (passage) Northern Goshawk.
I wanted to add this to show that the Harlan’s here in Alaska is very similar and can sometimes be hard to differentiate from the Northern Goshawk.
Adult Red-Tailed and Harlan’s