Characterized by their predatory habits and a diet primarily consisting of other animals and carrion, birds of prey come in different colors and sizes.
Equipped with speed, strength, keen eyesight, sharp talons, and powerful beaks, these raptors can sometimes be white.
Their white color comes from a pigment called melanin.
Melanin is a black pigment that gives animals their black color – birds with white feathers lack that pigmentation!
Examples of white birds of prey include the white hawk, snowy owl, king vulture, osprey, gyrfalcon, letter-winged kite, Egyptian vulture, and many others.
You might notice that many of these birds have black wingtips – this is because melanin, that pigment that darkens the feathers, makes the surface stronger and more resistant to abrasion.
Here are their photos and fun facts.
Table of Contents
White Birds Of Prey
- Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
- Length: 21-28 in
- Wingspan: 45.7-72 in
- Weight: 2.9-6.5 lb
Snowy owls are enormous white birds of prey.
They are the heaviest owls in North America and have a longer wingspan than any other owl found there.
Because of the cold weather in the Arctic regions they inhabit, snowy owls need good insulation; even their feet are covered with feathers!
This resulted in them being one of the heaviest owls in the world.
Females are larger than males and can weigh as much as 6.5 pounds and span up to 6 feet across the wings.
They are the only white owls in the world and males tend to be whiter than females; both have some black or brown markings on the body and wings and yellow eyes.
Snowy owls are native to the Arctic region of North America and breed on the tundra.
They are very vocal birds with over 15 different calls.
The most common call consists of 2-6 rough notes that sound like “krooh-krooh” and can be heard for miles. They might also make some rattle “rick-rick-ha-how-quock” calls.
Snowy owls are diurnal birds that sleep during the night and hunt during the day, especially when the summer comes; their diet includes small mammals, some water birds, fish, and even carrion.
Their favorite food is lemmings (small mouselike rodents) – they might hunt as much as 1,600 of those per year.
Snowy owls are monogamous and mate for life. A female will lay 3-11 eggs in the nest on the ground. The male will feed her while she incubates the eggs for around a month.
Read More: Examples of owls with blue eyes
- Scientific Name: Elanus leucurus
- Length: 14–17 in
- Wingspan: 35-40 in
- Weight: 05-0.8 lb
These small raptors with narrow pointed wings and long tails are mostly white.
They are found in western parts of North America and parts of South America.
White-tailed kites are common in open woodlands, marshes, savannas, and desert grasslands, where they feed on mice, snakes, small mammals, birds, and insects.
They can be often spotted hovering over open areas while looking for their next meal.
White-tailed kites are white below and have dark wingtips and shoulders.
Their most common call is a quiet whistled “yelp“.
Outside of the breeding season, they will roost communally and form groups of over 100 birds on just a few trees.
Due to shooting and egg-collecting, white-tailed kites got almost extinct in California around the 1940s. Luckily, they managed to recover and are now listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Scientific Name: Pseudastur albicollis
- Length: 18-22 in
- Wingspan: n/a
- Weight: 1.4-1.8 lb
White hawks are stunning short-tailed hawks of Mexico, Central, and South America.
These white birds of prey measure from 18 to 22 inches in length and weigh from 1.4 (males) to 1.8 pounds (females).
White hawks have very broad wings and white plumage – the head, body, and underwings are white while the wings and tails have black feathers.
Identify them also by their “kerwee” calls.
These hawks inhabit lowland forests and woodlands, ranging from southern Mexico, through Central America, down to Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru.
White hawks are carnivores and feed on lizards, snakes, some insects, and small mammals like rats, bats, opossums, and squirrels.
They can be rather inventive when hunting; white hawks will follow capuchin monkeys or coatimundis and fly down to capture tree snakes and other prey these animals drive out.
They will build their nests using sticks and twigs and lay 1 blue-white egg that females incubate while males feed them.
- Scientific Name: Neophron percnopterus
- Length: 19–26 in
- Wingspan: 57-69 in
- Weight: 3.5-5.2 lb
Also known as white scavenger vultures and pharaoh’s chicken, Egyptian vultures are small birds of prey found in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
They are spread from the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern parts of Europe, through North Africa, all the way to India.
These odd-looking birds of prey are white with black wing feathers and naked yellow faces.
Although smaller than other vultures, they can still reach almost 26 inches in length and weigh up to 5.2 pounds.
Egyptian vultures are also one of the few known bird species that can use tools!
They will use rocks as hammers to break eggs or sticks to gather and roll wool they will later use to build their nests.
Egyptian vultures inhabit open and semi-open areas and mostly nest on cliffs. They are carnivores and feed on carcasses, waste, carrion, frogs, insects, reptiles, etc.
Due to hunting, poisoning, and collisions with power lines, the Egyptian vulture population has decreased and the species is now listed as Endangered by the IUCN – some estimates claim there are 20,000-60,000 of these birds in existence today.
- Scientific Name: Accipiter novaehollandiae
- Length: 16-22 in
- Wingspan: 28-43 in
- Weight: 0.8-1.6 lb
Gray goshawks are medium-sized raptors found in Australia.
They come in 2 morphs – the all-white morph that is also known as the white goshawk and the gray-and-white morph.
The white morph has white plumage, including the head, wings, upperparts, and underparts – people considered them among the rare raptors that are completely white.
The gray morph has a pale gray head and back, white underparts, and dark wingtips.
Gray goshawks inhabit forests and tall woodlands along the coast of Australia and Tasmania.
They are carnivores and have a diet consisting of birds, rabbits, bats, possums, small reptiles, and insects.
These white-headed hawks are monogamous and pair for life – their breeding season lasts from July to December.
They nest in tall trees and use sticks, twigs, and leaves as building materials. Females lay 2-3 eggs that they incubate.
- Scientific Name: Sarcoramphus papa
- Length: 26-32 in
- Wingspan: 47.2-78.7 in
- Weight: 6-10 lb
King vultures are large, uncommon, and spectacular-looking birds found in Central and South America.
They inhabit lowland tropical forests and range from Mexico down to Argentina.
King vultures are huge and predominantly white raptors – they also have bald colorful heads and necks, white eyes, and black edges on their wings and tails.
- Read More: Examples of huge multicolored birds
These birds of prey will soar high over the forest, searching for carcasses that smaller vulture species have gathered around, and use their size to drive them away before enjoying their meal.
They are strictly scavengers and will never attempt to kill an animal, not even the one near death.
King vultures are the third largest New World vultures, after the Andean and Californian condors.
They are thought to be monogamous – they nest on the ground and a female will lay just one egg that both parents incubate and later raise.
Some suggest that their name comes from old Mayan legend where these vultures were referred to as “kings” that carried messages between Gods and humans.
- Scientific Name: Herpetotheres cachinnans
- Length: 18-22 in
- Wingspan: 31-37 in
- Weight: 0.9-1.8 lb
Incorrectly called snake hawks as they are falcons, these medium-sized raptors are found in Mexico, Central, and South America.
Their English (laughing) and Latin name (“cachinnans” meaning “laughing aloud”) are after their distinctive and loud voice.
These birds of prey measure 18-22 inches long, weigh 0.9-1.8 pounds, and have a wingspan of 31-37 in; females are bigger than males.
Laughing falcons have creamy white heads with black “bandit masks,” dark brown upperparts, black and white tails, dark brown eyes, black beaks with yellow cere (base), and yellow legs.
The light parts of the plumage of immatures are almost completely white.
With their big white heads and conspicuous facial masks, these falcons are unmistakable.
Identify laughing falcons also by their far-carrying laughs that resemble human cries and sound like “wah-wah” or “whah-whah“.
They will also emit longer “ha-cow” and “ha-cah” maniacal calls. You might also hear two birds singing in a duet with each bird calling at different pitches and rhythms.
In some folklore, people thought that these falcons could predict the weather – if they call from a dead branch, the weather will be fine, but if they did so while perched on a branch with green leaves, there will be rain.
Laughing flacons inhabit open forests and edges, palm savannahs, and second growth, ranging from coastal slopes of Mexico, through Central and South America, down to Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
Their breeding season depends on the latitude. The species are monogamous, nest in cliff or tree cavities, and lay 1 whitish egg with brown spots.
Laughing falcons are carnivores and have a diet consisting of snakes, lizards, rodents, fish, and even bats.
They hunt while perched on exposed branches, looking at the ground with their bowed heads, and then pouncing on the prey quickly and grabbing it with their beaks or talons. They fly slowly with rapid shallow wing beats; they do not soar.
Indigenous people of Mexico called the Ch’ol Mayas of Chiapas believe that laughing falcons are immune to snake bites and that they can cure themselves if bitten.
When curing a snake bite, Mexican Tzotzil people will imitate the call of a laughing falcon.
- Scientific Name: Spizaetus melanoleucus
- Length: 20–24 in
- Wingspan: 43-53 in
- Weight: 1.8 lb
Black-and-white hawk-eagles are small birds of prey found in lowland mixed forests and shrubland of Mexico, Central, and South America.
Despite having a large range, black-and-white hawk-eagles are considered rare, and not too much is known about the species.
Adults have white bodies, necks, chests, and heads with black crowns, dark upperparts, and bright orange-yellow legs and feet. Males are smaller than females.
These birds of prey can also be identified by their piercing whistled notes.
Black-and-white hawk-eagles are carnivores and have a diet consisting of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
They hunt by soaring at great heights and diving rapidly with folded wings after detecting the prey.
Black-and-white hawk-eagles nest in the forest canopy, use sticks to build their nests, and lay a single egg that females incubate while males feed them. These eagles breed every 2 to 3 years.
Their total population is unknown but is considered to be declining due to habitat loss.
Read More: List of eagles that have white chests
- Scientific Name: Elanus caeruleus
- Length: 13.8-15 in
- Wingspan: 31.5-37.4 in
- Weight: 0.43-0.75 lb
Black-winged kites are large white raptors with dark shoulder patches, wing tips, and eye stripes.
They also have forward-facing red eyes and long falcon-like wings that sit beyond the tails when perched.
Black-winged kites inhabit open savannahs, semi-deserts, and agricultural lands with scattered woods of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Europe. Males are territorial and protect their areas from the competition.
Although they mostly spend most of their days alone or in pairs, black-winged kites will roost in groups of hundreds when the night comes.
These large birds are noisy during courtship and the females are the ones that do most of the nest building. They will lay a clutch of 3-4 creamy eggs with red spots that both parents incubate.
Black-winged kites are carnivores and have a diet consisting of insects (grasshoppers, crickets), lizards, rodents, small snakes, frogs, and some birds.
- Scientific Name: Leucopternis melanops
- Length: 15.5 in
- Wingspan: n/a
- Weight: 0.65-0.83 lb
These conspicuous medium-sized hawks have black and white plumage.
Black-faced hawks have large white heads with the characteristic black masks they were named after and black backs with a single white band near the tails. They also have the orange cere (base of the beak) and black tips.
Black-faced hawks resemble white hawks with the main differences being the black-faced hawks’ smaller size, different head patterns, and beak color (blue-gray in white hawks).
Similar to other hawks, black-faced ones become more vocal during breeding season when they emit high-pitched “peeoh” calls.
They inhabit lowlands forests and forest edges along rivers and mangroves of South America.
Black-faced hawks are carnivores and feed on reptiles such as lizards and snakes, insects, and invertebrates.
- Scientific Name: Elanoides forficatus
- Length: 20-27 in
- Wingspan: 54 in
- Weight: 0.68-1.3 lb
These white birds of prey are also known as American swallow-tailed kites.
Swallow-tailed kites are medium-sized broad-winged (pernine) species of raptors commonly found around marshes, fields, farms, and wooded and urban areas of North, Central, and South America.
They breed from the southeastern parts of the USA to eastern Peru and northern Argentina.
They are easy to spot by their white bodies and heads, black and white wings, and unmistakable long and black tails.
With their long wings, deeply forked tail, and bold black-and-white plumage, swallow-tailed kites are very easy to recognize in flight.
They are omnivorous and feed on snakes, lizards, frogs, large insects, small birds, eggs, small mammals, and even some fruit.
- Scientific Name: Buteo regalis
- Length: 20-27 in
- Wingspan: 48-60 in
- Weight: 2-5 lb
Ferruginous hawks are large raptors found in the open country of North America.
Their scientific name “ferruginous” comes from Latin and means “iron-rust color” and refers to their reddish-brown plumage.
They are one of the largest North American raptors and due to their size, behavior, and proportions, people might mistake them for eagles.
Identify them by their broad tails and wings, large heads, and feathered legs (similar to rough-legged hawks).
These hawks come in 2 morphs – light-morph Ferruginous hawks have rusty-brown upperparts, pale whitish heads, necks, underparts, and gray upperwings.
Dark morphs have dark brown plumage overall with some light areas on the wings.
Listen for their scratchy screaming “kree” alarm calls.
Ferruginous hawks breed in grasslands, sagebrush, and edges of pinyon-juniper forests, and have a clutch of 4 whitish eggs with red-brown spots.
They move south to spend winter and during that period they might roost in groups of up to a dozen birds.
They are carnivores and have a diet consisting of rabbits, hares, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs – they hunt by scanning their surroundings from a perch, by hunting on the ground, or hovering and kiting in place.
- Scientific Name: Elanus axillaris
- Length: 14 in
- Wingspan: 31-39 in
- Weight: 0.57-0.66 lb
Also known as Australian black-shouldered kites, these small raptors are common in Australia.
They are often found hovering over grasslands in pursuit of their prey or perching exposed on branches and dead trees.
Black-shouldered kites have mostly gray-white plumage with black patches on the wings and black marks above their red eyes. Females tend to be larger than males.
They can be also identified by their clear whistling ” chee” and “scaarp” calls that are emitted while hovering or in flight.
Black-shouldered kites are monogamous, breed between August and January, and lay 3-4 eggs. As part of their courtship ritual, males will feed females in flight; both partners will build the nest.
They are carnivores and mostly prey on small rodents and insects such as grasshoppers.
- Scientific Name: Falco rusticolus
- Length: 19-24 in
- Wingspan: 43-63 in
- Weight: 1.7-2.8 lb
Gyrfalcons are the largest falcon species in the world.
Males measure 19-24 inches long, weigh 1.7-2.8 pounds, and have a wingspan of 43-51 in.
Females are even bigger and measure 20-25.6 inches long, weigh 2.6-4.6 pounds, and have a wingspan of 49-63 in.
They inhabit open fields, coastlines, dunes, prairie, and shrubsteppe, and come in 3 main morphs: white, gray, and blackish-brown.
White-morph gyrfalcons are the only predominantly white falcons and have white heads with fine black stripes on the crown, barred white upperparts, black-tipped wing feathers, and white underparts with a few small dark spots on breasts, bellies, flanks, and sides.
During medieval times, the gyrfalcon was considered a royal bird, highly valued as a hunting asset, and could be used exclusively by the King.
Although mostly quiet species, when they are near their nest, gyrfalcons will make loud “kiak-kiak” and “giik-giik” calls.
They breed on Arctic coasts and tundra, the islands of northern North America, northern parts of Europe and Asia, Greenland, and Iceland.
Their only predator is the golden eagle, but in most cases, they will avoid these formidable white-headed falcons. On the other hand, the gyrfalcons’ prey includes the ptarmigan, waterfowl, some fish, and mammals.
Gyrfalcons hunt by flying fast low over the ground and catch birds after a brief pursuit or over a longer distance. They are excellent fliers that might hover over the vegetation to drive out the prey and then catch it.
These falcons are monogamous and stay together until one of the birds dies. They bred from March to July, nest in scrapes and depression in cliff ledges, and lay 3-7 eggs that females incubate – both parents will feed the chicks.
- Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucogaster
- Length: 26-31 in
- Wingspan: 70-86.6 in
- Weight: 4-9.9 lb
Only a few Australian birds of prey are as spectacular as the white-bellied sea-eagles.
These enormous birds of prey are the second largest raptors in Australia (after the wedge-tailed eagles) and love to soar with wings held in a strong V-shape.
White-bellied sea-eagles, also known as white-breasted sea-eagles, are distinctive and have white heads, breasts, tails, and underwings – their upperparts are gray.
Similar to other raptor species, females are bigger than males.
White-bellied sea-eagles make several calls, including goose-like “hank-hank” and shorter “ken-ken” and “ka-kaa” calls.
They inhabit islands, inshore seas, rocky coasts, large inland waterbodies, estuaries, and wetlands of Asia and Australia.
These white eagles often hunt from perches and swoop down to grab prey usually found near the water surface.
They are carnivores and feed on fish, turtles, sea snakes, mammals, and birds. White-bellied sea-eagles will also steal food from other birds – harassing and attacking them to rob them of their prey.
They are monogamous and build very large nests using sticks; females lay 2 bluish-white eggs that they incubate while males feed them.
- Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
- Length: 19.7-26 in
- Wingspan: 50–71 in
- Weight: 2-4.6 lb
Ospreys are large diurnal birds of prey found on every continent, except Antarctica.
Due to their small white heads, wide wingspans, and sharp beaks and talons, people sometimes mistake them for bald eagles.
Ospreys are white below, brown above, and overall they are whiter than most birds of prey.
They also have M-shaped wings when soaring and white heads with a broad brown stripe through the eyes.
In North America, ospreys breed from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida. When the winter comes, they move south to winter from the southern parts of the USA to Argentina.
They are widespread there and can be found around the coast, lakes, rivers, and swamps.
Ospreys have several vocalizations: a slow whistled “kyew-kyew” guard call and a short clear whistle “cheereek” alarm call.
Ospreys are piscivorous and fish makes up 99% of their diet, hence their nickname “fish hawk.”
They will hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for the capture with their talons extended. Their toes are covered with short spines which help grasp slippery fish better.
During their 20-year-long lifetime, these migratory birds can travel over 160,000 miles!
Ospreys nest near water, on top of dead trees, and use branches, sticks, twigs, moss, and fish bones as material. The female will lay a clutch of 3 eggs that both partners incubate.
- Scientific Name: Gypohierax angolensis
- Length: 23.6 in
- Wingspan: 59 in
- Weight: 2.9-3.7 lb
Palm-nut vultures, also known as vulturine fish eagles, are large birds of prey found in forests and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa.
They were named after their favorite food, oil or raffia palms.
Both sexes look alike with males being approximately the same size as the females; this hasn’t been often the case on this list of white birds of prey.
Adult palm-nut vultures are white overall except for the backs and wing tips. They have very long hooked beaks with yellowish cere and pinkish legs and feet.
Similarly to other vultures, palm-nut ones are usually silent – they might produce some weak growls and squeals during breeding season or when defending their territory.
Unlike most birds of prey, these mainly feed on plants, especially fruits and grain, some fish, crabs, amphibians, and mollusks.
When the breeding season comes, they build large nests from sticks and branches and females lay 1 white-brown egg that both parents incubate.
- Scientific Name: Pseudastur polionotus
- Length: 18.5-20.2 in
- Wingspan: 46.4-50.7 in
- Weight: n/a
Mantled hawks are medium-sized birds of prey found in South America.
Mantled hawks have white heads, bellies, and tails, and barred black backs. Their white rounded heads seem disproportionately larger than the rest of the body.
Notice the pale gray beaks with black tips, brown eyes, and orange-yellow toes.
Identify mantled hawks also by their piercing whistle “weeuw” calls.
They are endemic to Brazil and can be also found in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. They prefer humid forests, secondary growth, and plantations, inhabiting altitudes ranging from sea level to 4,500 feet.
Mantled hawks are so-called “sit-and-wait-predators”.
They love to perch above the ground where they can scan the area for their next meal before swooping down and grabbing the prey. Mantled hawks are carnivores and feed on small birds, lizards, snakes, and small rodents.
Because of habitat loss, mostly due to iron exploration, urbanization, and agricultural development, mantled hawks are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, and their total population is estimated to be from 3,500 to 15,000 birds.
- Scientific Name: Elanus scriptus
- Length: 14 in
- Wingspan: 33-39 in
- Weight: 0.57-0.68 lb
Letter-winged kites are small, striking white birds of prey with black shoulder patches.
They are rather rare and only found in Australia.
Letter-winged kites were named after the distinctive black patterns under their wings that resemble letters M or W and that can be seen during flight.
Notice the white legs and feet and bright red eyes with dark markings.
Letter-winged kites belong to the Accipitridae family and are their only members that are nocturnal (active during the night).
They inhabit open country and grasslands, especially near streams and water courses.
A rather noisy species with males making high whistling alarm calls and females responding with harsh rasping “karr” sounds.
Letter-winged kites hunt small mammals, reptiles, and insects.
They breed in large colonies with up to 100 birds and use twigs, leaves, cattle dung, and rat fur to build their nests – females lay 4-5 whitish eggs with dark marks.
Their population is in decline and they are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, estimated at 700-7,000 birds in existence today.
- Scientific Name: Buteogallus lacernulatus
- Length: 17-19 in
- Wingspan: 35.8-39.7 in
- Weight: n/a
White-necked hawks are medium-sized raptors found in forests and plantations of South America.
They are endemic to Brazil, inhabiting areas from Alagoas and southern Bahia south to Parana and Santa Catarina.
White-necked hawks have pure white heads and underparts, black-gray upperparts, white tails with black bands, and yellow bases of their beaks.
They are omnivores and have a diet consisting of insects and other invertebrates, small rodents, birds, and reptiles.
Similar to white hawks, these opportunistic feeders will catch prey flushed by monkeys and other animals.
Due to habitat loss, white-necked hawks are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to some estimates, they have a total population of 2,500-10,000 individuals.
This concludes our list of white birds of prey.
Examples of white-colored raptors include several types of kites, hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures, and others.
Next time, should you see these birds in person, you should be able to recognize any of them with ease! Please just make sure you are watching them from a safe distance.