The following is an exhaustive list of orders and families of birds of prey commonly found in the East Atlantic Arctic. Birds of prey, also called raptors, are birds which feed exclusively on other living or dead animals. They have acute vision for spotting smaller animals and powerful beaks and talons (foot claws) for killing and eating their prey.
Falconidae is the only extant family of the the order Falconiformes. They are bird´s of prey, but are interestingly more closely related to passerines (songbirds) than to other birds of prey such as owls or eagles. The following falcons species are present in the East Atlantic Arctic.
- The Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus. This is the largest of all falcon species, and females are much bulkier than males. These falcons are circumpolar. They are residents in Iceland, southern Greenland, and northern Fennoscandia. They are found breeding in eastern and northwestern Greenland, and wintering in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. They are visitors to the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. Depending on area, different morphs are common, from white in Greenland to almost black in more southern regions.
- The Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus are medium sized falcons with distinctive red or buff-colored wings. Females is larger than males, with a brown tail and brown head. Males have a black tail and grey head. This species is found throughout most of Europe, Africa and Asia except for regions such as Siberia or large deserts. It is found breeding in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, but populations in this area migrate south in winter. It is a visitor to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland.
- The Merlin Falco columbarius. This is the smallest of all falcons species. It has a circumpolar distribution. and most populations are migratory. These falcons can be found breeding in Norway, Finland, and Sweden, where they are migratory. In Iceland, they are migratory in the North, and resident in the South. They are residents in the Faroe Islands, and occasional visitors to Greenland.
- The Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus. They are large falcons that are widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere as a breeding range, and the southern hemisphere as a wintering range. They breed throughout Fennoscandia, and are residents through parts of this region. The also breed in southern and western Greenland, where they are migratory.
Accipitriformes is the order that includes most diurnal birds of prey except for falcons. Most of the members of the accipitriformes order belong to the Accipitridae family, but the order includes two other families: the osprey family, and a family with only one member, the secretary bird.
Accipitridae is a family of small to large birds of prey that includes eagles, hawks, harriers, buzzards, kites, and some vultures. The following Accipitridae species are present in the East Atlantic Arctic. As it is common in hawks and eagles, females of these species are on average larger than males. Species that are closest to each other in appearance were grouped together, with tips on how to identify them.
- The Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. These large eagles are widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, although they cannot be found in the high Arctic. In the East Atlantic Arctic, they are residents in northern Fennoscandia, and all over Norway. Their wingspan can reach up to 2.2 meters.
- The White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. They are larger than golden eagles, with females reaching wingspans of more than 2.5 meters. They have a different range, reaching higher latitudes in Asia. They are absent from most of North America, as they are only found from Greenland in the West to eastern Siberia. They are found all over Iceland (most frequently in the northwest), in southeastern Greenland, coastal Fennoscandia, and are very rare visitors to the Faroe Islands. They are not found in Svalbard.
- The Hen harrier Circus cyaneus. This species, found in temperate and nordic regions of Eurasia, is medium-sized with wingspans reaching 1.2 meters. Hen harriers are found nesting throughout northern Fennoscandia, except for the extreme North, and migrates south in winter. They are rare vagrants in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. They are not found in Svalbard.
- The Rough-legged buzzard or Rough-legged hawk Buteo lagopus. This species is slightly larger than the hen harrier, with wingspans reaching 1.5 meters. They are circumpolar and their nesting only takes place in the Arctic, but they are not found in Greenland (except as rare vagrants). They migrate south in the winter. They are found in most of Norway, norther Sweden, and northern Finland. They are rare vagrants in the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
Hen harrier (female). The male is easy to recognize with his white underparts and grey upper parts. The female can be identified by her darker markings on the wings than the rough-legged buzzard, clearer face markings, and white ring around the neck.
Rough-legged buzzard (dark morph). It can be recognized by its shorter tail and coloring. In Europe, the most common is the dark morph, which is uniformly dark brown on the wings and underparts, and the head is clearly paler.
- The Northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis. This species is found from the temperate to the low-arctic regions of North America and Eurasia, and it is most often resident. It is quite large for a hawk, with a wingspan of up to 1.27 meters for females, which are much larger than males. They are not found in Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, or the Faroe Islands.
- The Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Much smaller than the northern goshawk, the females of this species only reach a wingspan of 80 centimeters. They are residents in western Europe, include coastal Norway, and migratory through temperate to low-arctic northern and eastern Europe and Asia, where they migrate south in the winter. This include most of Fennoscandia except for the northernmost regions. They are visitors to the Faroe Islands and southern Iceland.
Northern goshawk (female). These birds can be recognized by their size, sturdy body, very distinct face and underpart markings, and slate grey upper-parts. Find a complete guide with pictures for identification here.
Eurasian sparrowhawk (female). These hawks can be identified by their much smaller size, slender body, longer tail, and more brownish colors. The male is easy to identify, with underparts tinted with orange and muted, uniform grey upper part without face markings.
The Western osprey Pandion haliaetus, simply known as osprey in its range, is one of only two species in the family Pandionidae (the other being the Eastern osprey which is only found in Australia). Ospreys are found on every continent, whether as migrants or breeding birds. In the East Atlantic Arctic, they are present in Finland, Sweden, and some parts of northern Norway. They are visitors to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and very rare vagrants in Greenland. Contrary to most members of their order, the size difference between males and females is very subtle. Ospreys have a wingspan of up to 18 meters, and have striking white and dark brown markings.
Owls are the members of the order Strigiformes. All arctic owls are true owls, meaning they belong to the family strigidae. Owls are capable of flying extremely silently thanks to their specialized feathers and wing shapes. Most are nocturnal and use this ability to hunt silently at night. Like in most birds of prey, females are usually larger than males. The owls that can be found in the East Atlantic Arctic are the following species, given with advice on identifying species that resemble each other.
- The Boreal owl Aegolius funereus. This small owl (around 25cm in length with a wingspan of up to 62cm) is very difficult to observe, living in taigas away from human habitations. It is circumpolar, but inhabits only regions with trees so it is not found in the high Arctic. It is found in most of Fennoscandia up to the treeline.
- The Eurasian pygmy owl Glaucidium passerinum. This owl is the smallest present in Europe (between 15cm and 19cm in length). It is absent from North America, and its distribution is similar to that of the Boreal owl in Eurasia.
Boreal owl. It is much smaller than the northern hawk-owl, and can be distinguished from the Eurasian pygmy owl by its much larger rounded head, and lighter colors. The eyes are bright yellow.
Eurasian pygmy owl. It is smaller than the boreal owl, with brown, almost red colors. The head is small, flat and short.
- The Northern hawk-owl Surnia ulula. It is one of the few owl species that is diurnal (most active during the day). It is medium in size, averaging about 40cm in length for a wingspan of 45cm. It inhabits the subarctic to arctic regions of Eurasia and North America. It is found in most of Fennoscandia, except for the extreme South and North regions.
- The Snowy owl Bubo scandiacus. It is the northernmost owl species, and is migratory across its range. It breeds in the high-Arctic of Eurasia and North America, including Greenland, and migrates to lower Arctic or subarctic regions in winter. It is very large for an owl, averaging of 55cm to 65cm in length, for wingspans averaging 140cm to 165cm. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it breeds in northern and eastern Greenland, and northwestern and northern Norway. It is a annual but rare visitor to Iceland, where some pairs are sometimes believed to attempt breeding. It is also an annual visitor to Svalbard, western Greenland, and more rarely to the Faroe Islands.
- The Eurasian eagle-owl Bubo bubo. This owl is one of the largest in the world, with females reaching 75cm in length for wingspans of up to almost 190cm. It is found in subarctic and temperate regions of Eurasia, as far south as the Middle-East and southern China. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it is only found in western Norway, and some parts of Sweden and Finland excluding the North.
- The Long-eared owl Asio otus. Part of the population of this owl species breeds in the low-Arctic and subarctic regions of Eurasia and North America, and migrates South for the winter. The rest is resident and resides in temperate areas. Long-eared owls are medium sized with lengths of 31-40cm for wingspans of 86-102cm. They are very rare visitors to the Faroe Islands, and annual visitors to Iceland where a few pairs have been also been breeding.
Eurasian eagle-owl. Its coloration can be very different depending on the region and subspecies, but it can be recognized by its ear tufts, orange eyes, bulky shape, and size. The average female eagle-owl is about twice as long and ten times as heavy as the average female long-eared owl.
Long-eared owl. It can be recognized by its long ear tufts, and distinguished from the eagle-owl by its size, yellow eyes, and slim build.
- The Ural owl Strix uralensis. This owl species is found in the subarctic and temperate regions from eastern Norway to Japan. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it is found in the inland regions of Fennoscandia and around the Baltic sea. It is very rare in Norway, but occurs in small areas in the North and East. They are fairly large, with lengths of 50-64cm and wingspans 110-134cm. The tail is very long for an owl.
- The Short-eared owl Asio flammeus. This species is unusual in its habitat preferences, as it prefers grasslands to forests. It is largely migratory, although some populations are resident, and is found in extremely large range from some parts of the high-Arctic to South America. In the East Atlantic Arctic, it is migratory and breeds in Iceland and northern Fennoscandia, as well as all of coastal Norway. Short-eared owls are smaller than Ural owls, measuring 34-43cm in length for wingspans of 85-110cm. They are rare visitors to the Faroe Islands.
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