7 Big Birds In North Carolina (With Pictures!)

In this article I’ll be going over 7 unique big birds that can be found all across North Carolina so continue reading for a more detailed look at each bird below.

  • Bald Eagle 
  • Great Horned Owl 
  • Great Egret 
  • Red Tailed Hawk 
  • American Herring Gull 
  • Turkey Vulture 
  • Black Vulture 

7 Big Birds In North Carolina

1. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)

Bald eagle

  • Size: 90 – 108cm
  • Weight: 3 – 6.3kg
  • Wingspan: 180 – 250cm

Bald eagles can be found in the eastern part of North Carolina on a year round basis.

A bald eagle’s plumage consists of dark brown around its wing and body, with white feathers on its tail and head along with the trademark yellow beak and feet. Both male and female bald eagles look relatively the same.

As for where you can find these eagles, it will often be around lakes and reservoirs with lots of fish and surrounding forests. You’ll often find them around unfrozen lakes and hunting along coastlines, reservoirs, and rivers during the winter months

These eagles are birds of prey meaning they hunt other birds, medium sized mammals like rabbits, hares, other animals like reptiles, fish and even eat carrion when their options are limited. Sometimes bald eagles are recognised as fish eagles as their diet consists of fish and as meat is the only thing they eat these eagles would ultimately be regarded as carnivores too.

Bald eagles can live for around 20 years in the wild.

2. Great Horned Owl (Bubo Vrginianus)

Great horned owl

  • Size: 57 – 63cm
  • Weight: 1.4 – 1.5kg
  • Wingspan: 1.35 – 1.5m

Great horned owls can be found all across North Carolina on a year round basis which spans from spring till winter.

These large horned owls are recognised by their brown/gray plumage with their defining feature being the tuft of feather on the top of their head resembling a horn or ear like feature. Male and female great horned owls look relatively the same with the females slightly larger in size.

At night these birds will perch on a branch or a tall building to look around for prey and once the desired prey has been found they will fly towards it with folded wings, grab the prey with their talons piercing through their body and in most cases killing  them immediately.

As for what these birds eat it includes smaller prey like rodents, frogs or scorpions. Even other larger predators like geese, ducks, hawks, and smaller owls can be eaten by these carnivorous birds.

Great horned owls are most commonly found in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities and they can also be found in semi-open habitats between the Arctic and the tropics.

As for a great horned owls lifespan, it can be anywhere from 15 -25 years.

3. Great Egret (Ardea Alba)

Great egret

  • Size: 80 –  100cm
  • Weight: 0.7 – 1.5kg
  • Wingspan: 130 – 170cm

You’ll be able to spot great egrets in North Carolina’s coastline year round, in the central part of the state when breeding, with the western part of the state used as a migratory passage.

Great egrets are recognised by their extremely long necks, yellow bill, long black legs and mostly white plumage. Both males and females look very similar with the males being generally larger than the females.

Great egrets spend the majority of their time within marshes, ponds, shores and mud flats.

As for what they eat, it includes primarily consume fish along with crustaceans, amphibians, and small mammals. They will also forage around open areas.

Great egrets tend to live for around 15 years in the wild and around 22 years in captivity.

4. American Herring Gull (Larus Smithsonianus)

American herring gull

  • Size: 60 – 67cm
  • Weight: 1 – 1.5kg
  • Wingspan: 120 – 160cm

These herring gulls can be found in North Carolina’s coastline in their non-breeding season and in the remainder of the state when migrating.

American herring gulls are recognised by their gray wings, black tail feather, white feathers in the remainder of their body, yellow beak and reddish/orange legs. The females are typically a dirty light brown/gray color where it appears as if they’ve had mud sprayed across their feathers.

You’ll find these herring gulls around coasts and inland around rubbish tips, fields, large reservoirs and lakes.

In regards to what these gulls eat, it tends to be carrion, offal, seeds, fruits, young birds, eggs, small mammals, insects and fish.

American herring gulls are know to live for around 30 years on average, with the longest recorded hitting 49 years of age.

5. Red Tailed Hawk (Buteo Jamaicensis)

Red tailed hawk

  • Size: 45 – 60cm
  • Weight: 1.25 – 1.47kg
  • Wingspan: 100 – 150cm

Red tailed hawks can be found all across North Carolina on a year round basis.

These hawks are recognised by their brown torso and wings, white breast and red tails. The main difference between the male and females is that the females are a third larger than the males.

These red tailed avians spend their time at a variety of places within the state including deserts, grasslands, forests, agricultural fields and urban areas.

Red tailed hawks are carnivorous birds of prey where they feed on small mammals, rodents, other smaller birds, fish and even carrion.

In the wild red tailed hawks are known to live between 15 – 20 years whilst captive red tails can live on the upper end of that spectrum around 20 years.

6. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes Aura)

Turkey vulture

  • Size: 62 – 81cm
  • Weight: 1.5 – 2 kg
  • Wingspan: 1.6 – 1.8m

You’ll be able to find turkey vultures in North Carolina on a year round basis. 

Turkey vultures have a plumage that is mostly brownish/black in color with silver/gray lining on the underside of their wings adding a contrast to their overall appearance. The face is pink/red with elements of black on the head topped of with a pale white beak.

These scavengers are mono-morphic so they do look the same with the only differentiating aspect being their sexual organs.

Turkey vultures are scattered throughout north America where they can be found staying within open and forested habitats where they will also stay within lower elevation mountain ranges.

Carrion is a turkey vultures primary food source but, they do also eat dead reptiles, birds, amphibians and invertebrates. As a whole these vultures do prefer fresher carrion but, like other vultures they can consume the same carcass over several days.

Turkey vultures are known to live for around 16 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.

7. Black Vulture (Coragyps Atratus)

Black vulture

  • Size: 56 – 74cm
  • Weight: 1.2 – 1.9kg
  • Wingspan: 1.3 – 1.7m

You can find black vultures in North Carolina on a year round basis.

Black vultures are recognised by their almost entirely black body with elements of gray on their head and feet. The male and female vulture are not sexually dimorphic so its isn’t easy to tell them apart.

You can find black vultures living year round in forested and open areas, where most tend to spend their time in lower elevations.

Vultures are scavengers by nature and it’s no different here where their primary food source is carrion. They prefer feeding on fresh carcasses but, they are able to consume the same carcass over several days. On occasion black vultures will hunt live prey although live prey, whether mammals or birds, are weakened or sick making it an easier catch for them.

In regards to lifespan, wild black vultures tend to live for around 10 years whilst captive one are capable of living for 30 years.

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