Birds of Prey

Photo by CJ Baldwin

The term “birds of prey” refers to several related bird groups, including hawks, eagles, falcons, kites and ospreys. You may also hear the term “Raptor” when speaking of this hunting group. Vultures, not closely related, are often included because they look similar to and soar with raptors. However, vultures are efficient scavengers and feed on carrion. All other birds in this group hunt for their food.

Birds and people are sight-oriented animals. For both, eyes are the dominant sense organs, vastly more important than the sense of smell. Most birds have binocular vision. It is especially well developed in birds of prey, which require superior sight for successful hunting.

Family Traits
Birds of prey share many characteristics. They all have hooked bills, large eyes, broad wings with slotted tips, strong legs and feet that are equipped with sharp talons.

Threats to Hawks
Ingestion of poison and insecticides through prey items can lead to secondary poisoning and other issues in birds of prey. Insecticides have adversely affected the breeding success of many species. One affect after the accumulation of insecticide within avian tissue and other parts of the body is that eggs laid have weak shells that do not last through incubation.

Habitat encroachment has also reduced territories and changed the environment in which many of these birds once thrived.

What am I seeing? Where did I see it?
Habitat lends a clue to determine which birds of prey you may be looking at. You may find Red-tailed Hawks or the smaller American Kestrel perch along rural roadsides. Ospreys and Bald Eagles soar near water. Turkey Vultures, Golden Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks soar in open space areas above land. Sharp-shinned and Cooper Hawks may perch near garden feeders looking for prey.

I found a baby bird of prey

  • Please do not handle or feed the bird!
  • Call WCSV at (408)929-9453
  • If you find the bird after our office hours, please wait until you can reach trained staff at WCSV. It’s safest for you, and ultimately for the bird as well.

I found an injured bird of prey
Make sure that the bird is injured without touching it by checking for:

  • Blood
  • A drooping wing
  • Wing(s) held out away from body constantly
  • Obvious leg injury
  • Hit a window over 45 minutes ago
  • The bird has been captured by a cat or dog

If any of the above factors are present please take the following steps:

  • Please do not handle, feed, or transport the bird!
  • In San Jose, Milpitas, Los Gatos, Cupertino, or Saratoga:
    Call: San Jose Animal Care and Services at (408)794-7297. They will transport the animal to WCSV- it is not safe for you to handle or transport.
  • In Santa Clara, Campbell, Monte Sereno, or Mountain View:
    Call: Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority at (408)730-7178. They will transport the animal to WCSV- it is not safe for you to handle or transport.
  • In the Unincorporated Areas of Silicon Valley:
    Call Santa Clara County Animal Control at (408)465-2920 ext 0. They will transport the animal to WCSV- it is not safe for you to handle or transport.
  • For any area not listed here:
    Call WCSV at (408)929-9453. We can help you find the contact information you will need!
Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
3027 Penitencia Creek Road
San Jose, CA 95132
1-408-929-9453 (929-WILD)

Hours: 9 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week
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WCSV is a leased facility of the Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation Department,
funded in part by support from the City of San Jose, the City of Milpitas, the City of Sunnyvale and Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority