Falcons and hawks may look alike, but they are very different birds.

Hawks belong to a scientific family known as Accipitridae, while falcons belong to the family Falconidae. Although they come from different families, they are all called birds of prey, or birds that kill and eat other animals.

Here are some ways to help tell them apart.

Falcons are typically smaller than hawks. The biggest falcon is the gyrfalcon, which measures about 2 feet long. Falcons are also faster and more agile in the air because of their thin, long wings. Maybe you’ve heard of the peregrine falcon, which can dive at speeds of more than 200 mph!

Falcons are also more likely to use their sharp beaks to kill their prey, while hawks use their feet that have large, pointy talons, which are like claws.

To make things even more confusing hawks, eagles and buzzards are all related. Eagles are the kings of the sky, the most powerful of the birds of prey. You may have seen bald eagles, which are the national bird for the United States and have a white head, or golden eagles, which you are more likely to see in prairie areas and are a chocolate brown color.

Although they aren’t closely related, many people refer to all birds of prey as raptors. That name comes from the Latin word rapere, which means to grab and carry off, which is what the birds do when they catch their food.

To help you figure out if you are looking at a falcon, hawk, eagle or buzzard, have your parents buy you a bird identification book and a pair of binoculars. Even then, though, it can be hard. But with practice, and maybe some help from trained bird watchers at your local Audubon group, you will figure it out.

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