Birds of Prey
(also known as Raptors)

This is the bird family of fierce predators. All birds in this group share the family features of a hooked beak and sharp claws or “talons�?. In fact, it is with these formidable weapons that these birds make their living – by hunting. Their food varies, depending on the size of the bird; one of the smallest members of the family the Hobby (Falco subbuteo) catches dragonflies on the wing, whereas the larger Eagles will kill and eat small deer!

click to enlarge
The Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) shows the hooked beak, characteristic of the family that reveal this is a family of meat eaters!

Many thousands of birds of prey migrate through Lebanon each spring and autumn. As these are mostly large birds most are classified as soaring birds (see Migration). This means we tend to see them in large flocks spiraling over head. Indeed Lebanon is hugely important for the conservation of these magnificent birds as so many pass through. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 Lesser Spotted Eagles migrate through Lebanon annually, a very large proportion of the world’s population. Not only are they amazing to see but they also perform an important function in the environment – controlling pests such as rats, mice and rabbits.

click to enlarge

How we often see birds of prey – soaring overhead on migration. In this case, above, a Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and right a Short toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus). The Honey Buzzard eats wasps and the Short toed Eagle eats snakes. A few Short toed Eagles stay to breed – a good place to see them is at Aammiq or in the Arz el Shouf reserve.

Lebanon’s Birds of Prey

Everyone has heard of Eagles but this group also includes several other awesome predators. The more common members of the family that are worth keeping an eye out for include (with English, French, Arabic and scientific names):

Scientific Name English Name Arabic Name French Name
Milvus migrans Black Kite الحداة السوداء Milan noir

With its forked tail and “hunched look�? the Black Kite appears sinister – in fact it is a very useful scavenger – only migrating through Lebanon


Scientific Name English Name Arabic Name French Name
Accipiter nisus Sparrowhawk الباشق - باشق العصا�?ير Epervier d’Europe
Accipiter brevipes Levant Sparrowhawk باشق لي�?انت Epervier a pieds courts
click to enlarge

As their names suggest these small raptors hunt smaller birds. Both species migrate through Lebanon – flocks of the Levant Sparrow Hawk can number hundreds over the hills of the Shouf and Metn for example. Left: Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter nisus)

Scientific Name English Name Arabic Name French Name
Buteo buteo Common Buzzard الصقر الحوام - يضم حوام السهول Buse variable
Buteo rufinus Long-legged Buzzard الحوام طويل الساق Buse feroce
Pernis apivorus Honey Buzzard حوام النحل - صقر العسل Bondree apivore
click to enlarge click to enlarge

The Long legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinous), above, unlike the closely related Common Buzzard is a resident breeder in Lebanon. It can be seen perched or hovering against the wind, scanning the ground for the mice, rats, voles etc that make up its diet. Where there is protection from hunting in the hills and Bekaa Valley this bird is a common sight.

Scientific Name English Name Arabic Name French Name
Falco naumanni Lesser Kestrel عويسق Faucon crecerellette
Falco tinnunculus Kestrel عوسق - صقر الجراد Faucon creecerelle
Falco vespertinus Red-Footed Falcon اللزيق Faucon kobez
Falco subbuteo Hobby شويهين - البيدق Faucon hobereau
Falco eleonorae Eleonora’s Falcon صقر اليونورا Faucon d’Eleonore
Falco peregrinus Peregrine Falcon الشاهين Faucon pelerin
click to enlarge click to enlarge

Falcons – illustrated here by the Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) are the smallest but also the most agile and fastest of the birds of prey. Superb masters of the sky they can catch birds on the wing or hover above a single spot waiting to descend on an unsuspecting mouse. Indeed when the Peregrine is “stooping�? (flying fast towards the ground) it is the fastest bird in the world. Kestrels are common winter visitors particularly to farmland (Aammiq and Kafr Zabad / Anjar are great places to see them.) This one shows another family trait of the falcon group – strongly marked faces. The largest Falcon in Lebanon; the Peregrine can be found in winter around the tall buildings of Ras Beirut, which resemble its more natural home of cliffs.

Scientific Name English Name Arabic Name French Name
Aquila pomarina Lesser Spotted Eagle عقاب اس�?ع - ارقط - صغير Aigle pomarin
Aquila clanga Greater Spotted Eagle عقاب اس�?ع - ارقط - كبير  
Aquila nipalensis Steppe Eagle عقاب السهول - البادية Aigle des steppes
Aquila heliaca Imperial Eagle ملك العقبان Aigle imperial
Hieraaetus pennatus Booted Eagle العقاب المسيرة - المنتعلة Aigle botte
Hierraaetus fasciatus Bonelli’s Eagle عقاب بونللي - مخطط Aigle de bonelli
click to enlarge

Due to its position on a major migration route Lebanon is a great place to see Eagles. The most likely species to see are given above. However we should never forget that, internationally, many of these species are rare and endangered. Perhaps the equivalent of the breeding population of a whole country might fly over your house (if you are lucky) in a day!

Of course they do not only fly overhead, many will roost overnight in safe places (away from people) as this juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) was doing when it was photographed at Aammiq. Other good places to see Eagles are; Ehden, Shouf Cedar Reserve, Beirut River Valley –(see Migration)



The Best time and places to see Birds of Prey

As with other mainly migratory species the best months are mid March through to the end of May and August, (for Honey Buzzards) September and October. For a discussion of where to see birds of prey see Migration.