The world of birds in North America is so diverse. North America boasts an extensive range of feathered friends, from hummingbirds to condors. What happens, however, when the birds decide to be less than friendly?
Birds can be dangerous. Sharp beaks, slashing talons, silent flights, and speed. All of these things can make a bird dangerous.
We will count down the ten most dangerous birds in North America. Read on to learn about just what makes them so dangerous.
10. Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine falcons are the ultimate predator. The falcon’s strong, sharp yellow talons allow it to capture other birds. They are famous for their diving speed. A peregrine falcon can reach 240 miles per hour while plummeting toward its victim.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest bird in the world. Their speed, talons, and sharp beak make them hazardous birds. We should consider ourselves lucky that they rarely attack humans.
9. Great Northern Loon
The great northern loon seems innocent at first glance, but we rarely see them in action. They do most of their hunting underwater, catching fish in fast, agile chases.
They rarely come ashore except to nest, which is when they can become dangerous to humans. They have a sharp, dagger-like beak. If they feel threatened, they use their beak as a spear, stabbing their victim’s head, neck, and eyes.
The great northern loon can inflict severe damage with the speed of its strikes. Great northern loons are formidable birds in the water and on land.
8. Harris’s Hawk
Harris’s hawks are small birds compared to other birds of prey. They are only about the size of a crow. Don’t let their size deceive you, though, as they are still dangerous predators.
They can put out 170 pounds of pressure on the ends of their nails, which is four times the amount an adult human is capable of. What makes these hawks unique and dangerous is that they hunt in packs. Harris’s hawks are cunning and intelligent, working together like wolves to drive their prey into the claws of their hunting team.
They are very social birds who enjoy working together. This teamwork is not limited to hunting, however. They will also work together to defend each other. Taking turns swooping in and slashing at the opponent, they are relentless in their assault. Just one Harris’s hawk is a formidable opponent, but a whole team of them is difficult.
7. Herring Gull
When people think of herring gulls, they generally think of a relaxing day at the beach. This is anything but true for many people unlucky enough to encounter a Herring gull.
Herring gulls do not fear people. They have been known to attack people for a chance to steal their food right out of their hands. With a wingspan of 5 feet and a razor-sharp bill up to 2.6 inches long, it is no surprise they can do some damage.
While stealing food, they have been known to leave cuts on people’s hands, arms, and faces. They are brave enough to attack a grown man for an opportunity at a meal.
During nesting season, they become even more dangerous. They defend their areas as teams. If one bird believes it is in danger, it will call for backup. Before you know it, you could be trying to defend yourself from a team of razor-sharp herring gull bills, which can be difficult.
6. Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered hawks are not the most prominent hawks in North America. However, what they lack in size, they make up for in courage.
They are not intimidated by humans and will dive-bomb people for daring to come too close to their nest. In Fairfield, Connecticut, these hawks have terrorized residents for eight years.
Several nesting pairs of hawks will attack people there, plunging out of the skies to scrape people’s heads with their sharp talons. These incidents have also been recorded across the United States.
Aggressive hawks have even driven schools to cancel outdoor gym classes and recess because they were attacking children. Red-shouldered hawks’ courage and relentlessness make them hazardous birds.
5. Snowy Owl
This bird ranges the furthest north out of all birds of prey. Snowy owls are big birds with wingspan of up to five feet. They are intimidating predators who use their intelligence to back up their size and strength.
Snowy owls are extremely smart and use their brains when defending or attacking. They have even been observed attacking wolves to drive them away from their nests.
If they feel the need to, they will also attack humans. Snowy owls will use their razor-sharp talons to claw at a human’s head and face. They are dangerous because they are smart enough to know that this is our weakest point and use it to their advantage.
4. Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed hawks are one of North America’s most prominent, with a wingspan short of 4 feet. They typically avoid humans and are not usually a problem.
During the nesting season, they can be dangerous when defending their territory. They dive onto the heads of unsuspecting humans, clawing with their nails to drive people away.
Red-tailed hawks are fast birds. When diving after prey or attacking humans, they have been recorded going over 120 miles per hour. They also have excellent eyesight, even better than humans. They can use their vision to spot prey, and anything they think is a threat, including us.
One couple in Connecticut could not leave their house without being attacked by a nesting pair of red-tailed hawks for the entire breeding season. The birds drew blood several times on the people sharing their yards.
Red-tailed hawks will savagely defend their nesting area against any potential threats, and that might include an unsuspecting human walking below.
3. Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle has a fearsome reputation, and for a good reason. Historically, Golden Eagles were seen as Zeus’s messenger because of their size and strength.
They have a massive wingspan of 7.5 feet and can weigh up to 15 pounds. Golden eagles have sharp curved beaks and nearly three-inch talons. Using these nails, golden eagles have a grip strength of up to 400 psi, which is ten times stronger than an adult human.
Golden eagles are known to attack lambs, deer, and juvenile black bears. They are fierce predators that no human would want to get on the wrong side of.
There are historical accounts of golden eagles snatching children, though none have been proven. Today, adult humans have been attacked by golden eagles. They usually suffer deep cuts and puncture wounds.
It is a good idea to give this massive bird all the space it deserves because it can be hazardous.
2. Great Horned Owl
The great horned owl is one of the giant owls in North America, and they will use this size to their advantage. Great horned owls can and do attack humans, especially when they feel threatened or defend their territory.
A skier in Alberta learned this the hard way. While skiing through the owl’s territory, he was attacked and left with 16 puncture wounds to his scalp and face. These injuries resulted from the great horned owl’s best weapon, its nails.
These owls’ talons can exert up to 500 pounds of pressure per square inch. This is comparable to a German shepherd’s bite. Great horned owls have the strength to do severe damage to any foes they encounter.
1. Barred Owl
The barred owl is a silent apex predator of the sky. They have wickedly sharp talons and a beak to match. Barred owls are also swift; they can maneuver around anything at top speeds.
However, what makes them most dangerous to humans is that they are not afraid of us. They are comfortable right in our backyards and are not driven away by human activity like so many other birds of prey. This often leads to conflicts between humans and barred owls.
There have been numerous accounts of attacks and injuries. They tend to come back again and again until the person leaves their territory. They are the only bird in North America suspected of killing someone.
It is believed that a barred owl attacked a woman in South Carolina who died of her injuries. She sustained several deep wounds to her head and neck. While fleeing the bird, she fell a set of stairs and was knocked unconscious. Unable to get help, she bled to death from the injuries inflicted by the owl.
Barred owls are the only bird on this list to have killed a person. They have also recorded the highest number of human injuries from any bird in North America, making them the most dangerous.
Birds in North America can be gorgeous but also dangerous. Owls take the crown as the most dangerous bird. They are willing to attack and have the weaponry to back it up.
Next time you are outside, keep your eyes on the sky. You never know where danger could be flying.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.