Join us as we take a closer look at 14 different species of birds of prey that you can spot in Belgium.
Belgium, a treasure trove of culture, history, and natural splendor, is also a sanctuary for a myriad of Birds of Prey. As we flap through our list of magnificent raptors, we will explore their majestic appearances, culinary preferences, delightful anecdotes, and, most importantly, where to find these winged marvels in beautiful Belgium.
Let’s take a look at 14 different species of birds of prey that you can spot in Belgium!
1. White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Meet the lord of the skies – the White-tailed Eagle. With a wingspan that can exceed 8 feet, these are true monarchs. Their brown body, pale head, and white tail command awe. In Belgium, they are a rare sight but have been seen increasingly in recent years, especially during migration. A little bird told me the River Scheldt estuary is a promising place to spot them.
2. Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
The Eurasian Hobby, a slender and dashing falcon, comes equipped with long wings and a taste for the dramatic. They adore feasting on dragonflies, which they catch in mid-air, and even pursue other birds in thrilling aerial chases. Cloaked in dark slate-grey, with a white underbody and red “trousers”, they are the sky’s elegant pirates. To catch a glimpse of these avian daredevils, venture to the wetlands of the Zwin Nature Reserve.
3. European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
With an affinity for the sweet nectar of life, the European Honey Buzzard is a connoisseur of wasp and bee larvae. This slender, brown-winged virtuoso has a unique palate. To locate bees’ nests, they are gifted with a keen sense of smell, a rarity among birds! Their charm lies in their delicate flight and affinity for treetop meals. To spot these refined avian gourmets, make your way to Hoge Kempen National Park.
4. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Next, enter the dashing woodland navigator, the Eurasian Sparrowhawk. With their piercing yellow eyes and barred underparts, these birds are forest stealth experts. They adore dining on small birds, which they catch with remarkable agility. It’s rumored that they can even navigate through dense foliage to catch their prey. Fancy a garden party? They often swoop into gardens in pursuit of a meal! The Sonian Forest near Brussels is the place to behold their woodland mastery.
5. European Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
The Eurasian Kestrel, with its reddish back and tail, is like a mesmerizing painting in motion. These aerial hovercraft feed on small mammals, birds, and insects. What makes them stand out? Their ability to hover at one spot even in strong winds. Their head remains still even in turbulent air, a feat that would make any photographer envious! The open country and meadows of the Flemish region are where they flaunt their aerial prowess.
6. Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Sashaying into the spotlight, the Hen Harrier flaunts a striking sexual dimorphism: the males are grey with black wingtips while the ladies wear a charming brown. Their favorite dinner plans? Small mammals and birds, which they catch by gracefully gliding low over fields. A nifty trick up their wings is the males’ sky dance during the breeding season. A visit to the peaceful grasslands of Wallonia will satiate your quest for this mesmerizing harrier.
7. Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Imagine a kite adorned with russet feathers soaring through the air. That’s the Red Kite for you! With a wingspan reaching over 5 feet, the Red Kite’s forked tail and a taste for carrion and small mammals make them nature’s grand aristocrats. Gossips say they often engage in aerial duels over food. The hilly landscapes of the Ardennes region are the banquet halls for these regal flyers.
8. Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
With an enigmatic demeanor, the Tawny Owl greets us with its large, black eyes set in a brown, mottled body. A creature of the night, it feasts on a smorgasbord of small mammals, insects, and birds. Don’t let their size fool you, their calls can send a shiver down your spine! Witness this nocturnal virtuoso in the Hautes Fagnes – Eifel Nature Park, but tread softly!
9. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Embarking on our journey, let’s salute the adaptable Common Buzzard. Donning an array of plumage from dark brown to nearly white, these beauties have an elegance that’s easy on the eyes. The buffet for these avian wonders includes rabbits, small mammals, and birds. An intriguing fact is that they engage in aerial displays during the breeding season, soaring and diving with such grace that would make even ballet dancers jealous. Wander through the sprawling High Fens Nature Reserve in eastern Belgium for a possible tete-a-tete with these charismatic creatures.
10. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Speed is the mantra for the awe-inspiring Peregrine Falcon. These jet-setters can reach speeds of over 240 mph in a dive. With a bluish-grey back, barred white underparts, and a black head, they are the speed demons of the bird world. In Belgium, they’ve adapted to city life and are seen nesting on tall buildings. Brussels, the capital, has become a falcon metropolis! So, don’t forget to glance upwards next time you’re sipping coffee in a street café.
11. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
A powerful raptor, the Northern Goshawk is the woodland sentinel. With piercing eyes, slate-grey back, and finely barred underparts, these birds are the lions of the bird realm. Their taste buds savor birds and mammals, and their flight through dense forests is nothing short of an aerial ballet. A lesser-known fact: they’re avid nest builders, often embellishing their nests with fresh foliage. Sonian Forest near Brussels is the place to marvel at these avian behemoths.
12. Merlin (Falco columbarius)
The Merlin, a petite falcon, graces us with its presence. With a bluish-grey back and streaky underparts, this small predator is a bundle of energy. Preying mostly on small birds, Merlins have been known to pursue their quarry in relentless aerial chases. A sight to behold! The windswept coastlines and moors of the Flemish region serve as the backdrop for this tireless flier.
13. Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
With captivating golden eyes and streaked brown feathers, the Short-eared Owl is a picture of elegance. Unlike most owls, they’re diurnal, making them a birdwatcher’s delight. Small mammals, especially voles, make up most of their diet. They have an elaborate courtship display involving wing-clapping below their bodies. To witness their grace, head over to the Uitkerkse Polder on the Belgian coast.
14. Little Owl (Athene noctua)
Wrapping up our tour, the Little Owl, small and compact, with endearing “brows,” steals our hearts. They prefer a diet of insects, small mammals, and birds. Adorable and feisty, these birds have a habit of bobbing their heads when alarmed. The orchards and open fields of Haspengouw in Limburg are where you’ll find these charming fellows.