Raptors and Vultures of Columbia County, Oregon

Raptors are the diurnal birds of prey, hunting rodents, rabbits, snakes, fish, and smaller birds in our skies.

bald eagle columbia county oregon
Bald Eagle – Characteristic white head and huge bill. Juveniles without white head identified by mottled white underwings. Hunts fish, steals from other birds, and eats carrion. (Photo © Jeremy Matlock BLM)
Golden Eagle – Has uniform brown underwings and narrower bill than Bald Eagle. Typically found east of Cascades but sometimes passes through here during the winter. (Photo © Patrick Durlam)
osprey columbia county oregon
Osprey – Unique black eyeline on white head. The “fish hawk” plentiful around any water body, where it can be seen swooping down to pull fish from the water. (Photo © Susan Young)
northern harrier marsh hawk columbia county oregon
Northern Harrier – Clear white patch on rump. Hunts small animals in fields and wetlands by flying over them with its bobbing flight. Also called “Marsh Hawk”. (Photo © Tom Koerner USFWS)
Rough-legged Hawk – Variable but best recognized by the dark “wrist” patches or frosty upper body. A large hawk rare in our area, mostly spotted in open areas in winter. (Photo © Alan Schmierer)

red-tailed hawk columbia county oregon
Red-tailed Hawk – Variable, juveniles and some adults lack red tail. Can be found anywhere in the county year-round but prefers open space to hunt, primarily taking rodents. (Photo © Mark Nikas)
red-shouldered hawk columbia county oregon
Red-shouldered Hawk – A medium-sized hawk identified by rust-colored shoulders and black-and-white plummage. Rarely seen in our area, preferring trees near wetlands. (Photo © Alan Schmierer)
Cooper's hawk columbia county oregon
Cooper’s Hawk – An “accipiter”, the hawks known for faster wingbeats. Tends to hide in well-foliated trees, waiting for unsuspecting pigeons and songbirds to approach. (Photo © Alan Schmierer)
Sharp-shinned Hawk – The smaller version of the Cooper’s Hawk, with dark cap extending down nape, narrower head and hips, and more flattened-off tail. (Photo © Alan Schmierer)

peregrine falcon columbia county oregon
Peregrine Falcon – Our largest falcon and has a distinct black facemask. Hunts ducks and other birds. Can be found nesting on bridges and high-rises within sight of water. (Photo © Gregory Smith)

Merlin – Our medium-sized falcon, its facemask lacks the distinctiveness of its larger and smaller cousins. Usually found in forest near wetland openings or clearcuts. (Photo © cgates326)
american kestrel columbia county oregon
American Kestrel – Our smallest and most colorful falcon. It is common in fields and meadows throughout the county, tending to hunt small rodents, reptiles, and bugs. (Photo © Patricia)
Turkey Vulture – Soars high in the sky seeking out dead flesh by smell and sight. Holds its wings in a “V” while flying, unlike straight-winged hawks. (Photo © Jon David Nelson)

Other raptors sometimes seen on rare occasions as they pass through Columbia County are the White-tailed Kite, Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Gyrfalcon, and Prairie Falcon.

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