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A wide variety of British birds of prey can be found all over the landscape, from marsh and farmlands to city centres. Throughout the year, there are a variety of birds to look out for. If you are planning to seek out and spot some of these fascinating creatures, look at our birds of prey identification list below and learn how to identify British birds of prey.

Birds of Prey UK Identification List

Our birds of prey UK identification list will tell you what markings and shapes to look out for, where they can be found, and the size of each animal.

Do you know how birds fly?  Find out here

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Markings and Identifying Features

Buzzards have dark or mottled brown broad bodies with short necks, tails, and rounded wings. Look out for a pale necklace across the breast and a barred underside.

Buzzards will be seen soaring and wheeling in the air with wing-tipped feathers splayed in a V formation and a fanned-out tail. When gliding, its wings will be hunched. The bird emits a “kee-ya” sound somewhat similar to a cat while it soars through the skies.

What Size is a Buzzard?

Buzzards have an approximate wingspan of 1.2m, a length of about 54cm, and weigh between 780 grams and 1kg.

Where Can You Find Buzzards in the UK?

Buzzards are the most commonly spotted bird of prey found in the UK. Numbers had previously suffered from hunting and pesticide poisoning, but the species have made an incredible comeback in most areas.
Buzzards can be spotted on heaths, woody hillsides, and moors or sitting in fields. They may also be spotted perching on posts and fences on country roadsides.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Markings and identifying Features

Sparrowhawks have broad wings with long wingtip feathers and a very long tail. Male Sparrowhawks are a grey-blue colour with a pale underside with orange stripes. The female is much larger than the male, with brown feathers and a striped-grey underside. These small birds of prey can fly quickly in short bursts and have a slanting dive. They will not be seen hovering.

What Size is a Sparrowhawk?

Sparrowhawks have a wingspan of around 62cm, a length of 33cm, and a weight ranging between 150 to 260 grams.

Where Can You Find Sparrowhawks in the UK?

Sparrowhawks are the bird of prey you are most likely to see in UK gardens, and they can be seen hunting smaller birds around hedge height or circling high in the sky. They can also be spotted in parks, fields, forests, marshes, and moors.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Markings and Identifying Features

The Kestrel has a typical falcon shape with pointed, flat, long wings and a long tail which opens into a fan-like shape. The birds have a ginger-brown back, a speckled underside, and a grey tail with darker stripes.

Kestrels have many flight styles they will employ in their hunt, including circular soaring, hovering, and an extremely fast pursuit of prey.

What Size is a Kestrel?

Kestrels have a wingspan of approximately 76cm, a length of between 33 to 39cm, and weigh between 190 to 220 grams.

Where Can You Find Kestrels in the UK?

Kestrels are found across the UK, both in cities and the countryside. They often hover over roads, farmlands, heaths, and grasslands.

Do you know how kestrels hunt?  Find out in this article I wrote

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Markings and Identifying Features

This graceful bird has a red-brown body and unique forked tale with angled red, black-tipped wings and white patches beneath. Red Kites have a grey-blue head with bright yellow eyes. When flying, they can be spotted soaring powerfully high in the sky while consistently altering their wings to enable quick changes in direction. The bird emits a mewling-like call which may alert you to their presence.

What Size is a Red Kite?

Red kites have a large wingspan of around 1.8m, with a length ranging between 58 to 64cm, and weigh around 1.2kg.

Where Can You Find Red Kites in the UK?

Red kites were once an exceedingly rare sight in the UK after being hunted to near extinction. Still, a successful re-introduction programme means that these birds can now be spotted all year round in forests, wood, farmlands, and hovering over countryside villages. They are spotted in South East England, Wales, the East Midlands, and Yorkshire.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Markings and Identifying Features

These large birds are deep brown with white stomachs and a darker band across the breast. Osprey have white heads and a black band reaching from the eye edges to the back of the neck. They are long-winged with wingtip feathers and dark patches at the wing bend.

When flying, they will keep a steady, strong path and angle their wings when gliding and diving down to swoop towards lakes, rivers, and lochs.

What Size is an Osprey?

The Osprey are bigger than a buzzard and are most often mistaken for a gull. They have a wingspan of approximately 1.6m, a length of about 56cm and will weigh around 1.5kg.

Where Can You Find the Osprey in the UK?

Between March and September, Osprey can be spotted in Cumbria, Northumberland, the East Midlands, Scotland, and Wales. They can be seen near rivers, lakes, and estuaries near their food source and nearby forests. The bird migrates in September to West Africa.

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)

Markings and Identifying Features

Peregrines can resemble large kestrels but have shorter tails. These falcons are broad-shouldered and chunky animals. Male peregrines have grey-blue backs and whitish feathers on the underside with black-barred flanks and dark spots peppering the breast. Their head will have a black nape and crown with white cheeks. Females are bigger with blunter wings, and their feathers have a duller grey-white tone.
They fly with rapid stiff beats of the wing, will soar with their wings spread, and make quick dives for prey.

What Size is a Peregrine?

Peregrines have a wingspan of about 1.2m with a length of 40-54cm and weigh between 670 grams to 1.1kg.

Where Can You Find Peregrines in the UK?

Although numbers previously plummeted due to persecution, Peregrines have made a remarkably successful comeback. They can now be found in UK towns and cities where they perch and nest on tall buildings and along UK coastlines.

Do you know what falcons eat?  Find out in this article I wrote.

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Markings and Identifying Features

Merlins are only a little larger than a thrush with a chunky body and a small squarish head. Male Merlins are grey-blue with an orange underside with white streaks and a black-banded grey tail. They also have white streaks above their eyes and a weak white moustache. Female Merlins are larger and have a browner tone of grey with dark, spotted upper wings.

These small birds of prey are known for their fast, low flight while staying low to the ground, punctuated with bursts of rapid wing flapping.

What Size is a Merlin?

Merlins have a wingspan of 56cm, a length of 26cm to 31cm and a weight of 180 to 230 grams.

Where Can You Find Merlins in the UK?

Merlins are seen on bushier hillsides, wetlands, coasts, and moors across England, Scotland, and Wales in the wintertime.

Hobby (Falco Subbuteo)

Markings and Identifying Features

These small falcons can look like an exceptionally large swift with a long tail. They have a narrow, pointed, swept-back wing shape with red legs, dark-grey feathers, and black streaks on their underside. The Hobby has a squat, white head with a dark crown and moustache and a patch of white on the neck.
These birds fly elegantly with powerful deep wing beats and are seldom seen soaring.

What Size is a Hobby?

These birds have a wingspan of about 87cm and a length of approximately 87cm. They weigh between 180 to 240 grams.

Where Can You Find Hobbys in the UK?

Hobbys can be found in the summer over wetland, moors, farmlands, and heaths in the South-East of England.

Do you know where falcons go in winter?  Find out here.

Marsh Harrier (Circus Aeruginosus)

Markings and Identifying Features

The Marsh harrier is a comparable size to a buzzard with a very long tail. The Marsh Harrier flies in a V-like shape, flying low to the ground over riverbeds with its head kept low as it scans for small mammals and birds. Male birds are brown with red-brown underneath, pale grey wings and tails, and pale heads. Females are darker brown with a cream/yellow head and pale streaks on their underside.

What Size is a Marsh Harrier?

The birds have a wingspan of approximately 1.2m, a length of around 48 to 55cm, and weigh between 540 to 670 grams.

Where Can You Find the Marsh Harrier in the UK?

Marsh Harriers are migrant birds that can be sometimes spotted in Britain. They will be seen over coastal wetlands, reedbeds, and marshes when they are visible. They are most likely spotted in Somerset, South-East England, and East Anglia.


Britain has a wealth of beautiful and fascinating Birds of Prey to discover, watch and admire. Perhaps the next time you drive along a countryside lane, you’ll sport a Buzzard sitting on a post or look up at the top of a tall building and spot a Peregrine. Maybe you’ll only have to look out the window to your garden to discover a Sparrowhawk! Now that you’ve read Birds of Prey UK identification tips, you will know what to look for. Study the bird’s shapes, sizes, and identifying marks, and you’ll have a much easier time identifying British Birds of Prey.

There are many ways that birds keep warm.  Find out more here