A raptor is a bird of prey; a predator that seizes its prey with its feet. That’s the critical difference separating the raptors from other carnivorous birds, such as herons or pelicans, which capture prey with their beaks.
Not all raptors are desirable for falconry purposes, and not all are legal at the federal or state level. The birds appearing on this list are the ones that you are most likely to see.
Many thanks to the Global Raptor Information Network for having such fabulous information available!
American Kestrel Falco sparverius (male referred to as a “kestrelet”)
Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis femoralis, Falco femoralis pichinchae
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides (considered by some to be a subspecies of peregrine)
Barred Owl Strix varia <– now legal for take in WA, along with the GHO
Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus
Common or Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (male referred to as a “musket”)
Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis (not legal for take in WA, but you can go to Idaho)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus (male referred to as a “gyrkin”)
Harris’ Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus (trappable in Arizona (via lottery) and Texas)
Merlin Falco columbarius (male referred to as a “jack”)
Subspecies: Black F.c. suckleyi, Taiga F. c. columbarius, Prairie or Richardson’s F. c. richardsonii
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus (male referred to as a “tiercel”)
Prairie Falcon Falco mexicanus
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus elegans
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug milvipes
Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
Hybrids are simply a cross between two species produced by either natural mating or artificial insemination (AI). Hybrids don’t have to be 50/50 either; a peregrine/gyr hybrid crossed with a peregrine yields 75% peregrine, 25% gyr offspring. “Tribrids” exist but are nearly unheard of, such as this peregrine/lanner/gyr. Some consider crosses between subspecies (anatum and Peales’ peregrines, for example) to be hybrids as well.
A hybrid’s name is a combination of the father first, then mother. The female will usually be the smaller species, since a small eyass in a too-large egg can’t get enough leverage to break the shell and hatch. This is why you see “perlins” (peregrine/merlin) and not “merligrines” (merlin/peregrine).
Hybrids are created to provide additional traits such as cold/heat resistance, increased size or speed, better temperament, or general hardiness. Most commonly, the falcons are used for hybridizing, like the gyr-peregrine, gyr-saker, or “pocket rocket” (gyr/merlin) but other viable crossings have included harris’ hawk x redtailed hawk, redtailed hawk x ferruginous hawk (“ferrutail”), harris’ hawk x coopers hawk, and harris hawk x golden eagle. Hybrids do, if rarely, occur naturally in the wild.