About Hawks, Owls and Other Raptors
- Some raptor species that have taken up residence in urban areas, such as the merlin and the peregrine falcon, have rebounded from near-extinction in the 1960s. Urban areas provide raptors with safe nesting sites and abundant prey to allow the species to recover in number.
- In urban areas, one of the most commonly seen raptors is the Swainson’s hawk. They commonly locate their nests in trees close to open spaces, such as golf courses or parks or anywhere there is a Richardson’s ground squirrel colony.
- Merlins can be identified by the loud noises they make. In spring time, the calls come from single raptors courting potential mates. In the summer, hungry young call their parents to bring them food.
- Raptors are skilled, specialized predators and beneficial neighbours to have. Hawks feed heavily on small mammals such as mice and ground squirrels. Merlin feed heavily on the house sparrow, a non-native species of bird that competes with native bird species for the best nesting sites and food sources.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can hawks, owls and other raptors be a nuisance to people?
- Many raptors have an aggressive nest defence and will dive-bomb people or pets they feel are getting uncomfortably close.
- Some raptors, such as young great horned owls, may attack very small dogs or cats, though it occurs very rarely. This is more likely to happen in suburban areas or in areas near ravines or river valleys.
What should I do if I see raptors in the city?
- Keep yourself, children and pets a respectful distance from raptor nests.
- If fledgling young fall out of the nests, leave them alone. Raptors are protective parents and will dive-bomb to protect their young.
- Do not allow very small dogs to play outside unsupervised and keep your cat indoors, especially at night.
- If you are raising rabbits, pigeons or chickens on your property, be sure that they are kept in covered enclosures at night and that the enclosures are in good repair.
Call a Fish and Wildlife officer:
- If you are concerned for your own safety or the safety of others
- If a raptor is preying on domestic animals on your property
If you encounter a raptor that is injured and cannot fly, contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
- Alberta Birds of Prey Centre (Coaldale) – 403-345-4262
- Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (Madden) – 403-946-2361
- Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey (Sherwood Park) – 780-922-3024
- Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (Calgary) – 403-266-2282
- Calgary Zoo – 403-232-9327
- Cochrane Ecological Institute (Cochrane) – 403-932-5632
- Kestrel Wildlife Care Centre (Sherwood Park) – 780-464-5445
- Medicine River Wildlife Centre (Spruce View) – 403-728-3467
- Sunexotics Wildlife Rehab and Sanctuary – 403-337-3906
- Wildlife Rehab Society of Edmonton (Edmonton & Spruce Grove) – 780-914-4118
To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:
For more information on the species in Alberta:
To download in-depth information about hawk and owl control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:
Updated: Feb 2, 2018