CLARKSBURG W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia has hundreds of different bird species, but what are the biggest bird species you can find in West Virginia? The eagle is one that everyone knows, but some birds have just as big of a wingspan.
The bird facts and sizing information for this article was sourced from allaboutbirds.org, an online bird encyclopedia, and conservation resource.
Great Horned Owl
These nocturnal birds can grow to have a wingspan of 15-23 inches and their color tone can vary depending on their region. These birds are known to be able to take down large animals, including other birds of prey like raptors or other owls, but they will also eat smaller animals like frogs or rodents.
These scavengers can be found across North and South America and can have wingspans as large as 27 inches. Turkey vultures use their extremely keen sense of smell to find fresh carcasses.
These birds of prey can have wingspans of about 50 inches. Despite having one of the largest wingspans in North America, the biggest females only weigh around three pounds. They have also occasionally been spotted hunting in pairs and will cover both sides of the prey to prevent it from escaping.
It should be no surprise that Turkeys are one of the largest birds that can be found in West Virginia with a 50-inch wingspan, and can actually be found in every state except Alaska. Despite their size, Turkeys can fly short distances and will sometimes roost in trees during the night.
Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle
One of the most recognizable birds in the world, the bald eagle can be found across North America with a wing span of up to 80 inches. However, bald eagles don’t always act as nobly as we depict them. Instead of catching prey themselves, these birds are known to go after the catches of other fishing birds like Ospreys and will harass them until they drop their catch. Eagles are also scavengers, especially during winter months.
Golden Eagles can have equally large wingspans and are usually found in nature in pairs or alone. Golden Eagles prefer to live in wide, open country, or near mountains and cliffs. Their usual choice of food is small or medium-sized rodents like rabbits and prairie dogs, but can also take down larger birds like cranes as well.
These hunters prey on other smaller birds and can be found in large forests, with wingspans up to 46 inches wide. According to All About Birds, the word “Goshawk” comes from the old English word for “goose hawk” because of its tendency to hunt other birds. Falconers have trained Goshawks for more than 2,000 years and were once called “cook’s hawks” because of how good they were at catching that night’s dinner.
The Common Loon has one of the most recognizable calls than can be heard across long distances. These birds can weigh up to 13 pounds and can have wingspans of up to 50 inches wide. Loons catch their food by diving underwater and spend most of the time on the water’s surface, only coming on land to mate and incubate eggs.
Great Blue Heron
These Herons have a close to 80-inch wingspan but only weigh four to five pounds fully grown. These birds will hunt in shallow waters and stand still as they wait for prey to get close enough to catch.
These waterbirds clock in with an average wingspan of about 46 inches and usually weigh three to five pounds. Like the Loon, they will spend their time floating on the water and then dive to catch fish, however, they will also hang out on rocks and docks afterward to dry themselves for flight.
These birds mostly hang out in wetlands but will migrate through West Virginia. Although their wingspan can stretch up to 57 inches, they only weigh a little over two pounds. Similar to Cormorants, Great Egrets will stalk shallow waters hunting for fish, frogs and other small aquatic animals.
These birds have wingspans that approach 80 inches wide. They spend their time patrolling grass and marshlands looking for grains, insects and small animals. These birds also form huge migratory flocks that can number into the tens of thousands.