Raptors (Birds of Prey)
Yellowstone supports twelve diurnal (active during the day) raptor species and seven breeding nocturnal species. Raptors are hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and vultures and are often referred to as 'birds of prey' since they use their long talons and hooked bills for capturing and tearing apart food. Raptors have excellent vision for locating prey and some, like the turkey vulture, have a highly developed sense of smell used to find carcasses on the landscape. Raptors in the park range in size from bald and golden eagles to the diminutive American kestrel and Northern pygmy-owl. Raptors also include less visible species such as the peregrine falcon and great gray owl, as well as some species use the Yellowstone landscape during migrations and seasonal movements.
The Yellowstone Bird Program counts and observes bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons were previously listed as endangered and threatened species and their monitoring is required by law. The osprey is monitored because one of their food sources, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, has declined in Yellowstone Lake. Other species that occur in the park such as golden eagles and Swainson’s hawks are of growing conservation concern throughout their ranges in the United States. A research-based program began in 2011 to supplement the information gathered by the Yellowstone Bird Program.
Read more about the Yellowstone Raptor Initiative.