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Raptors of North America

with Thomas Bancroft, Ph. D.

308 4th Ave S, Kirkland, WA 98033

With 35 species of raptors in North America, their ranges in size and different behaviors make them fascinating and create curiosity in on-lookers. Eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, and kites as some of the most prominent and sought-after birds. This course will help you become familiar with all of them, learning the key characteristics and behaviors that will help you identify a raptor no matter where you are.

We will spend more time on the species found in Washington, helping you learn in more depth about these remarkable birds, but we will cover all the species found in the United States and Canada so you can feel confident in identifying one. The focus will be on learning techniques that will help you identify them and not just on field marks. Slides, homework, and field trips will allow you to practice these skills. We will frequently review the information to help you solidify your knowledge and feel comfortable with your new skills.


Topics discussed during the course:

  • Eagles: Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Osprey

  • Hawks: Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk,

    Northern Goshawk, Common Black-Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Gray

    Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged

    Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk,

    Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk

  • Falcons: Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Merlin, American

    Kestrel Prairie Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon

  • Vultures: California Condor, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture

  • Kites: Hooked-billed Kite, Snail Kite, White-tailed Kite, Swallow-

    tailed Kite, Mississippi Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite

The goal is to help you learn to identify raptors, know what to look for when you see one, and have a good understanding of their distribution and behavior.

Class Meeting Schedule: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Tuesday, October 1st: Raptor Birding Skills: Size and Shape, Behavior, Habitat, & Color Pattern

Tuesday, October 15th: Eagles & Hawks – Begin working through these species – Review of first lecture.

Tuesday, October 22th: Finish Hawks & cover Falcons – Review of second lecture

Tuesday, October 29nd: Vultures, Kites & other raptors not yet covered – Review Falcons – Review course coverage

Field Trips:

  • Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge: We will walk the trails and boardwalk looking for raptors. This can often be a good place to find them because they come looking for the birds that congregate at the refuge. We will organize carpools for the day. Sign up for either Sunday or Monday.

    Sunday October 20th -- All day field trip

    Monday October 21st -- All day field trip

  • Skagit: We will explore the area from the Stillaguamish, north through the Skagit (Fir Island), to the Samish Flats, looking for raptors. We will organize carpools for the day. This will be a car-based trip. Sign up for either Sunday or Monday.

    Sunday, October 27th – All day field trip

    Monday, October 28th – All day field trip


Thomas Bancroft PH.D. in Ornithology

Thomas Bancroft PH.D. in Ornithology

Thomas Bancroft has been a birder all his life and has a Ph.D. in Ornithology. He has birded in 48 states, several Canadian providences, and on 6 continents. Tom has identified more than 560 species in the United States and slightly over 2,000 worldwide. Birds have been a big part of his life, both recreationally and professionally. Their identification, ecology, behavior, and systematics were central parts of his undergraduate and graduate schooling, and remain a key interest. Between under graduate and graduate school, he worked in the bird laboratory atCarnegie Museum analyzing bird banding data and helping with the banding program at Powdermill Nature Reserve. In graduate school, he studied Scrub Jays, Blue Jays, and Boat-tailed Grackles. While working for National Audubon, his fieldwork on wading birds and White-crowned Pigeons helped move the conservation agenda. Just before moving to Seattle,Thomas served as Chief Scientist for National Audubon, helping them integrate with the work of Birdlife International all across the Americas. He recently finished a 6-year appointment toWashington Audubon’s board and is the Secretary of Washington Ornithological Society. Tom helps teach the Introduction to the Natural World course for the Mountaineers and leads birding eld trips for the Mountaineers and Washington Ornithological Society. He has been a member of Audubon since his teenage years.

Picture Credit: Mick Thompson (Peregrine Falcon)