Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

Birds of prey fascinate with their impressive flying skills and hunting techniques. However, since they are rarely seen today, it is difficult to identify them. So-called flight pictures are a useful help.

In a nutshell

  • identify birds of prey even at high altitudes with flight images
  • Wings (wings) and tail (thrust) serve as features for recognition
  • various flight characteristics (gliding, soaring, shaking, etc.) are further criteria

Buzzards (Buteo)

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

  • broad, fingered wings
  • Tail: short, banded, mostly widely spread
  • retracted head
  • Soaring: Wings raised in a V-shape, wingtips curled up
  • Wingspan: 113 to 128 centimeters
  • Body length: a good 50 centimeters tall
  • Habitat: breeds in the forest; hunts in open terrain (wooded landscapes with pastures, meadows, fields and pond landscapes)

Rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus)

  • light, almost whitish head
  • hardly any difference to the common buzzard
  • often shakes (shaking flight = remaining in one position in flight, comparable to a hummingbird)
  • Wingspan: 120 to 150 centimeters
  • Body length: 50 to 60 centimeters
  • Habitat: migrants in this country or winter guests (regularly in Schleswig-Holstein), open and spacious terrain

Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

Although the honey buzzard is not directly related to the common buzzard, it is often compared to it. Therefore, its flight image is described here.

  • head stretched out long and wings stretched out, much slimmer than common buzzard
  • Tail distinctly longer and narrower than that of the common buzzard
  • Head somewhat slimmer and more prominent than that of the common buzzard
  • Wingspan: 135 to 150 centimeters
  • Body length: about 55 centimeters
  • Habitat: varied landscapes (mixture of forests, copses, meadows and cultivated steppes), larger park landscapes, prefers the vicinity of water

True eagles (Aquila)

lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina, syn.: clanga pomarina)

  • typical flight: smooth glide with lowered head
  • wide, board-like wings with level flight attitude
  • Primaries with strong fingering
  • Wingspan: 146 to 168 centimeters
  • Body length: up to 66 centimeters (slightly larger than a common buzzard)
  • Habitat: Forests with adjacent open spaces; humid lowlands with deciduous and mixed forests bordering on moors and wet meadows

Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

  • sleek flight image
  • very long and broad wings
  • medium length tail
  • Wings almost horizontal
  • Primaries with conspicuous fingering
  • head strongly protruded
  • Wingspan: 204 to 220 centimeters (second largest bird of prey in Europe)
  • Body length: 75 to 95 centimeters
  • Habitat: Valley slopes and mountain flanks in the Alps; mostly hunts above the tree line in summer; breeds in Central Europe only in the Alps

Osprey (Pandion)

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

  • long, narrow, mostly angled wings
  • dazzling white underside
  • Wingspan: 145 to 170 centimeters
  • Body length: up to about 60 centimeters
  • Habitat: open and clear waters (tall trees for nesting), wooded lake areas, river meadows, coasts

Goshawks and Sparrowhawks (Accipitridae)

Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

  • short, rounded, broad wings
  • long, distinctly rounded and broadly banded tail
  • often longer gliding phases in flight
  • Wingspan: 135 to 165 centimeters
  • Body length: 48 to 62 centimeters (females significantly larger than males)
  • Habitat: Plains, in the mountains up to 1,500 meters above sea level, varied landscapes with a high proportion of deciduous, mixed and/or coniferous forests

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

sparrowhawk male
  • rounded, wide wings (round wings)
  • long tail, rounded at the corners
  • Wingspan: 55 to 70 centimeters
  • Body length: 28 to 37 centimeters (females significantly larger than males)
  • Habitat: Varied landscapes with a high proportion of forest, small groves in open terrain

Milane (Milvus)

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

  • Synonyms: red kite, fork consecration, royal consecration
  • larger and longer wings than black kite
  • five fingers on the wingtips
  • bright primary field
  • longer tail, also with deeper fork than black kite
  • Wingspan: 175 to 195 centimeters
  • Body length: about 65 centimeters
  • Habitat: varied landscapes (forests and open spaces)

Notice: The red kite has become very rare in Central Europe. In the Alps and the northern foothills of the Alps, as well as in parts of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, it does not breed as a bird, but sometimes spends the winter in this country.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

  • Synonyms: Black Milan
  • long wings, six fingers on the wingtips
  • long, weakly forked tail (often referred to as "straight")
  • Wingspan: 160 to 180 centimeters
  • Body length: about 57 centimeters
  • Habitat: Breeds in forests, larger copses, near water or thatched landscapes (often in the vicinity of heron colonies); prefers to be near bodies of water outside of the breeding season

white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus)

White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)

  • wings broad and board-shaped
  • Tail: short and wedge-shaped in adults, longer and more rounded in young ones
  • noticeably large head
  • Wingspan: 200 to 240 / 250 centimeters (largest bird of prey in Europe)
  • Body length: 70 to 95 centimeters
  • Habitat: near lakes, rivers, sea coasts; Horst in old-growth stands or at the edge of the forest (tall trees)

consecration (circus)

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

  • narrow wings
  • long tail
  • Soaring and gliding: Wings raised in a V-shape
  • Wingspan: 100 to 120 centimeters
  • Body length: up to 50 centimeters
  • Habitat: Fields, moors and meadows on the plain, heathland, lowlands with water bodies

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Source: Paco Gómez from Castellón, Spain, Circus aeruginosus Valencia 2, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 2.0
  • narrow, long wings
  • long tail
  • Soaring and gliding: Wings raised in a V-shape
  • Wingspan: 115 to 130 centimeters
  • Body length: 48 to 56 centimeters
  • Habitat: Open landscapes with bodies of water and extensive reed areas, swamps, in Germany especially in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

  • typical flight: swaying, gull-like
  • long tail and narrow, long wings
  • narrower wings than Hen Harrier
  • Soaring and gliding: Wings raised in a V-shape
  • Wingspan: 105 to 120 centimeters
  • Body length: 43 to 47 centimeters
  • Habitat: wet lowlands, river valleys, high and low moors, transitional moors

Special Case: Falcons (Falco)

Based on the latest DNA analyses, hawks no longer belong to the order of birds of prey, but since they are generally referred to as such, the most important representatives are listed here anyway.

Wood Hawk (Falco subbuteo)

  • fast agile flight
  • high impact frequency
  • only short gliding distances
  • rarely shakes
  • very long, crescent-shaped wings
  • Tail shorter than the kestrel
  • Wingspan: 82 to 92 centimeters
  • Body length: 30 to 36 centimeters
  • Habitat: Deciduous and coniferous forests, open areas with trees and shrubs

Tip: The flight pattern of the tree falcon is reminiscent of that of the common swift.

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region, Photographed in Warwick, RI. (8575464956), edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • broad-winged and stocky flight pattern
  • fast and straight flight; fast wing beats, only short gliding phases
  • pointed wings but wider than tree hawk
  • Tail shorter than the kestrel and with a broad terminal band
  • Wingspan: 50 to 62 centimeters
  • Body length: 25 to 30 centimeters
  • Habitat: in this country during migration and in winter, open terrain
  • Note: The Merlin is the smallest falcon in Europe.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

  • typical flight: shaking flight
  • long pointed wings
  • long tail
  • Wingspan: 50 to 60 centimeters
  • Body length: up to 35 centimeters
  • Habitat: open landscapes with groups of trees, rocky terrain, forest edges, built-up areas, industrial areas, wastelands

Notice: The kestrel is the most common falcon in the cultivated landscape.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

  • long pointed wings
  • short, pointed tail
  • fast, powerful wing beats
  • Wingspan: 95 to 110 centimeters
  • Body length: 36 to 48 centimeters (males are significantly smaller than females)
  • Habitat (breeding sites): Mountains, lowlands, on coasts, on islands

frequently asked Questions

Are the wings fingered by hawks?

A fingering cannot be seen in falcons in the flight picture.

What is the push in birds of prey?

By thrust is meant the tail. The name comes from the hunter language and is also used to describe the flight image.

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!