10 Most Dangerous Birds Of North America


The world of birds in North America is so diverse. From hummingbirds to condors, North America boasts a large range of feathered friends. 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 are going to countdown the 10 most dangerous birds in North America. Read on to learn about just what makes them so dangerous.

10. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon
Hari K Patibanda Flickr CC2.0

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 towards its victim.

Peregrine falcons are the fastest bird in the world. Their speed, talons and sharp beak make them a very dangerous bird. We should consider ourselves lucky that they rarely attack humans.

9. Great Northern Loon

Great Northern Loon
Ron Knight Flickr CC2.0

The great northern loon seems innocent at first glance but that is because 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 and this is when they can become a danger to humans. They have a sharp, dagger-like beak. If they feel threatened they will use their beak as a spear, stabbing at the head, neck, and eyes of their victim.

The great northern loon is capable of inflicting serious damage with the speed of their strikes. Great northern loons are formidable birds in the water and on land.

8. Harris’s Hawk

Harris's Hawk
Heather Smithers Flickr CC2.0

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 talons 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 smart, 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 truly dangerous.

7. Herring Gull

Herring Gull
Ed Uthman Flickr CC2.0

When people think of herring gulls, they generally think of a relaxing day at the beach. For many people unlucky enough to encounter a Herring gull, this is anything but true.

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 that 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 then it will call for backup. Before you know it, you could be trying to defend yourself from a whole team of razor-sharp herring gull bills and that can be a very dangerous situation.

6. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red shouldered Hawk
Charles Patrick Ewing Flickr CC2.0

Red-shouldered hawks are not the biggest 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, residents have been terrorized by these hawks for eight years running.

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 hawk’s courage and relentlessness make them an extremely dangerous bird.

5. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Tambako Flickr CC A-ND2.0

This bird ranges the furthest north out of all birds of prey. Snowy owls are big birds with a wingspan of up to 5 feet. They are intimidating predators who use their intelligence to back up their size and strength.

Snowy owls are extremely smart and will use their brain 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 they will use it to their advantage.

4. Red-tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawk
Andrew Weitzel Flickr CC2.0

Red-tailed hawks are one of the biggest hawks in North America with a wingspan just short of 4 feet. They normally avoid humans and are not usually a problem.

During the nesting season, they can be dangerous when defending their territory. They are known to dive onto the heads of unsuspecting humans, clawing with their talons to drive people away.

Red-tailed hawks are very 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 eyesight 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 poor people that were sharing their yard with them.

Red-tailed hawks will savagely defend their nesting area against any potential threats, and that just might include an unsuspecting human walking below.

3. Golden Eagle

Golden eagle
Imran Shah Flickr CC2.0

The Golden Eagle has a fearsome reputation, and for good reason. In history, the Golden Eagle was seen as the messenger of Zeus because of its 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 talons, golden eagles have a grip strength of up to 400 psi, which is 10 times stronger than an adult human.

Golden eagles have been known to attack lambs, deer, and even 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 proved. 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 of the space it deserves because they are definitely dangerous.

2. Great Horned Owl

Great horned owl
NPS Flickr PD

The great horned owl is one of the biggest 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 are defending 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 were the result of the great horned owl’s best weapon, their talons.

These owl’s 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 serious damage to any foes they encounter.

1. Barred Owl

Barred owl
Fyn Kynd Flickr CC2.0

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 own 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 that is actually suspected of killing someone.

It is believed that a woman in South Carolina was attacked by a barred owl and ultimately died of her injuries. She sustained several deep wounds to her head and neck. While fleeing the bird, she fell down 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 actually killed a person. They have also recorded the highest number of injuries to humans out of any bird in North America and that is what makes them the most dangerous.

Birds in North America can be very beautiful 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

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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