Michigan, with its diverse habitats and strategic location in migratory routes, is a haven for various species of raptors. From the majestic Bald Eagle nesting near the Great Lakes to the elusive Northern Saw-whet Owl hiding in dense forests, the state offers endless exploration opportunities for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers.
List of Birds of Prey in Michigan
Red-tailed Hawk: Widespread throughout Michigan, Red-tailed Hawks are frequently spotted circling in the sky or perched on roadside poles. They are particularly visible in rural areas and open fields.
Sharp-shinned Hawk: This agile bird, more often heard than seen, is a resident of Michigan’s dense forests, particularly the vast wooded areas in the Upper Peninsula.
Cooper’s Hawk: Often found in woodland and suburban areas, these raptors are notable for their bird hunting skills. Areas around cities like Ann Arbor are quite good for sightings.
Northern Goshawk: While not as common, these forest-dwelling hawks can be seen in the heavily wooded areas of Northern Michigan.
Rough-legged Hawk: A winter visitor, they are most commonly seen in Michigan during their migration period. They are frequently observed in open countryside and agricultural areas.
Red-shouldered Hawk: Found in bottomland hardwood forests, they’re more common in Southern Michigan. Waterloo Recreation Area is a good place to spot them.
Broad-winged Hawk: This migratory bird is abundant in Michigan during the summer. Try looking in mixed woodlands across the state.
Northern Harrier: These hawks are seen gliding low over open fields and wetlands, like those in the Fish Point Wildlife Area.
Bald Eagle: These iconic birds are spotted around large bodies of water. The shores of the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior, are ideal for sightings.
Golden Eagle: Less common than Bald Eagles, they can occasionally be seen in winter in open, rugged terrain in Northern Michigan.
Osprey: Regularly spotted near water bodies as they primarily feed on fish. They can be found around the Great Lakes and inland lakes during the summer.
American Kestrel: This small falcon is frequently seen in open habitats. They are commonly seen on power lines along roads throughout the state.
Peregrine Falcon: Once extinct in Michigan, they’ve been reintroduced and can now be seen in urban areas, nesting on tall buildings and bridges.
Turkey Vulture: These large birds are common across Michigan, often seen soaring in groups, particularly in open and semi-open areas.
Black Vulture: Less common than Turkey Vultures, they can occasionally be seen in Southern Michigan.
Great Horned Owl: The most common owl in Michigan, they inhabit mixed forests and woodlands across the state.
Barn Owl: Quite rare in Michigan, a few pairs can be found in the Southern part of the state, typically in farmland areas.
Long-eared Owl: These elusive owls are seen in dense thickets and forests. Sightings are rare but possible in the forested areas of Northern Michigan.
Short-eared Owl: Found in open habitats like marshes and grasslands, these owls can be spotted in places like Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.
Barred Owl: Known for their distinctive hooting call, these owls inhabit large, mature forests, particularly those near water bodies.
Snowy Owl: Winter visitors to Michigan, they are often found in open, treeless areas. The open fields and agricultural areas of Southern Michigan are known spots.
Eastern Screech-owl: These small owls can be found in a variety of habitats, including suburban areas, throughout the state.
Northern Saw-whet Owl: Tiny but fierce, these owls are seen in Michigan’s dense forests. They are quite secretive making them a rare but exciting find.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
The long-eared owl (Asio otus)
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Where to Spot Birds of Prey in Michigan
Michigan is blessed with several locales known for their diversity of birds of prey.
Isle Royale National Park: Situated in Lake Superior, this park is a bird watchers’ paradise, frequently showcasing the majestic Bald Eagle and elusive Northern Goshawk.
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge: Located in the Saginaw Valley, this refuge is home to a wide variety of raptors, including Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers.
Waterloo Recreation Area: The largest park in the Lower Peninsula, it hosts species like Red-shouldered Hawks and Great Horned Owls amidst its vast natural expanse.
Upper Peninsula Forests: These dense, expansive woodlands are the perfect habitat for raptors like the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the rare Great Gray Owl.
Pointe Mouillee State Game Area: On the shores of Lake Erie, this game area is a known spot for viewing Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, and several species of hawks.
In your avian journey, don’t stop at Michigan’s borders. Each neighboring state offers its unique encounters with these winged predators. Discover the raptors of Ohio with the screeching preying birds of Hocking Hills, or head north to explore the sky masters of Wisconsin. Continue your adventure westward and marvel at the soaring hunters of Minnesota. In every state, from the watchful birds of prey of Indiana to the daring raptors of Illinois, there’s always a thrilling spectacle waiting. For a broader perspective, check out our master guide on birds of prey in the US, a comprehensive resource for the avian explorer in you.