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Brutal Bird of Prey

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This is one bird no one wants to mess with.

The powerful and intimidating appearance of birds of prey has earned them the fear and respect of people worldwide. Whether a character in their own right or a symbol of the strength of another, raptors are an intimidating prospect.

One reason why birds of prey are made antagonistic is because of their large size and strength (as well as their rather intimidating appearance) since many are incredibly powerful predators, capable of taking down much larger animals. The fixed raptor glare is also rather off-putting.

The other reason is, quite simply, a lot of animal fiction has their natural prey as protagonists. Birds of prey, as their natural predators, are the obvious choices for antagonists. In a story where birds are the main characters, whether anthropomorphic or not, birds of prey will often be the villains.

This trope does not just apply to actual birds of prey, but to humans and other creatures that use bird of prey symbolism; associating a villain with a bird of prey can symbolise his predatory nature and/or relentlessness.

A bird of prey can also symbolise an aristocratic villain or Anti-Hero — either through the real-world example of heraldry or having a bird of prey as a Right-Hand Attack Dog. This symbolism is because of the sport of falconry, which was historically practiced only by royals and nobles.

Generally, this trope applies to falcons, hawks, and, more rarely, eagles. Whilst owls and vultures are also birds of prey, they have very different connotations in fiction. Only add examples pertaining to them here if they fit the trope description.

Compare and contrast Noble Bird of Prey, which features birds of prey as noble, proud, and majestic. A subtrope of Feathered Fiend and Predators Are Mean. For the nocturnal equivalent, see Ominous Owl. For the scavenging equivalent, see Vile Vulture.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Over the course of his career, the Penguin has used a variety of birds of prey as weapons.
  • In the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics, Emil Eagle is a Mad Scientist-and in some stories is the Lex Luthor to Super Goof's Superman. That is all.
  • Hellboy: Vladimir Giurescu is a vampire lord with the power to shapeshift into an large eagle.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hayabusa, Shan Yu's falcon in Mulan, serves as his master's loyal scout.
  • The antagonist of the first act of Rango and current trope image is a giant hawk who routinely terrorizes the Western town called Dirt (the inhabitants of which are all animals who would naturally be the hawk's prey). Even Rattlesnake Jake is terrified of it. (Which makes Rango's accidental success in killing it unfortunate, as it was the only thing restraining Rattlesnake Jake in any way.)
  • At one point in The Sword in the Stone, Wart, who's learning to fly as a bird under the tutelage of Archimedes, is suddenly attacked by a hawk. After it chases him into the forest, he finally escapes by diving down a cottage chimney. Sadly, things go From Bad to Worse for Wart, because the cottage he's hiding in is that of Madame Mim.
  • The main villain of Valiant is a German pigeon-intercepting falcon voiced by Tim Curry, who is portrayed as an Ax-Crazy psychopath. Fitting with the bird of prey's association with nobility, he is portrayed as a Nazi Nobleman.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Tobias in Animorphs (a boy stuck in the form of a red-tailed hawk) has a hatred of eagles — Sixth Ranger Traitor David chooses a golden eagle as his first morph, a bird easily larger and more dangerous than any other the kids have morphed into so far, with the exception of Rachel's bald eagle.
  • In The Book of Dust, Olivier Bonnevile, one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate of The Secret Commonwealth, has a sparrowhawk as a daemon.
  • Discworld
    • The Air Watch is staffed by Feegle, who use tamed, or at least semi-domesticated, birds of prey as air patrol vehicles, adding an eye-in-the-sky to the capabilities of Sam Vimes' City Watch. This necessarily adds an extra dimension of apprehension to anyone at ground level who is considering criminality.
    • Lady Jane in Lords and Ladies is a gyrfalcon who has thus far responded to all attempts at training by viciously attacking the falconer, who is now univerally known as "Hodgesaargh" because that's how he introduces himself. When an elf orders her to attack Hodgesaargh, however, it turns out she responds this way to anyone who gives her orders.
  • The vicious birdlike Shryke race in The Edge Chronicles resembles humanoid birds of prey and are a matriarchal race of warriors and slavers who are notorious for their brutality, to the point of eating their enemies — and even each other. Male shrykes are treated little better than slaves, led around on chains by the larger females.
  • Although he is an owl rather than a diurnal raptor, the case of Metalbeak and the other Pure Ones (an organization of Nazi-esque barn owls) from the Guardians of Ga'Hoole books cannot be ignored here. The guards at the St. Aegolius Academy are nothing to laugh at either.
  • Journey to the West, the Golden-Winged Peng is one of the strongest opponents faced by Sun Wukong and a ruthless bird demon skilled with his halbeard and able to catch up even with Sun Wukong's own Cloud Jump. The Peng King used to be a divine bird in Heaven, but got fed up with vegetarianism and went down to Earth to have some fun.
  • There's a children's book called "SQUAAAAWK" in which, if you open a magical book, you allow the Roc magically bound inside to get out and terrorize your town.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, ordinary birds of prey such as hawks and eagles are portrayed as terrifying predators. Justified, since they're cats, after all, and the birds are very large to them — large enough to carry off a kit, or, with an eagle at least, a full-grown cat.

    Live Action TV 

  • In "Maybe Sparrow", Neko Case warns a sparrow that "the hawk's alight til morning". The sparrow does not listen and ends up killed. (Despite the specific mention of a hawk, in the music video, it's a barn owl that menaces the sparrow.)

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology has several examples.
    • The Caucasian Eagle is probably one of the biggest qualifiers; a massive eagle, often said to be the offspring of resident Eldritch Abominations Typhon and Echidna, who was utilized as the eternal punishment for Prometheus by pecking out and eating his forever regenerating liver. It was ultimately killed by Heracles when he encountered Prometheus, freeing him from this torment.
    • The harpies were often said to be part-woman and part-vulture, and they were nasty creatures that kidnapped humans, stole food and made it smell too horrible to eat when humans objected.
    • The Stymphalian Birds, deadly bronze-taloned birds that could fire their feathers out like arrows, might have been this, though sources disagree on just what types of birds they were—some artwork depicted them as looking like corvids, geese or storks instead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Res Arcana: The resemblance to an angry bird of prey contributes to the creepy appearance of the Jeweled Statuette, which can produce a lot of Death essences for you and even gives some to your opponents.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands features the Friendly Sniper Mordecai as one of the possible player characters. His Action Skill is to send out his pet Bloodwing, a predatory bird of indeterminate species, to attack an enemy within his line of sight. Especially good for flushing enemies out from behind cover.
  • In Far Cry 4, Everything Is Trying to Kill You (unless, of course, it's a pig, or a tapir, or an Honorable Elephant), and one of the dangerous native animals of Kyrat are their black eagles. If you ever hear one of the Golden Path soldiers shout "EAGLE!!", look to the sky, because that eagle is most likely going to swoop down and introduce your face to its talons. As a testament to the danger posed by black eagles, they can literally carry off pigs, despite the fact that those pigs should weigh more than they do. Then Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 5 introduce bald eagles that fill the same role. Rather appropriate, since the fifth game takes place in Eagleland.


  • Neopets: Though Darigan pets are not necessarily evil, they have traditionally evil looks, such as dark colors, spikes, horns, and red eyes. Eyries (a griffin-like Neopet) in the Darigan color have dark colors, red eyes, hooked beaks giving them the appearance of fangs, and hooked talons. Lord Kass is a villainous Darigan Eyrie. With his large frame, color scheme, and hooked beak, he is designed to look menacing, and his bird of prey features accentuate this.

    Western Animation 
  • In DuckTales (2017), Falcon Graves is an anthropomorphic falcon and a ruthless corporate saboteur.
  • The Lion Guard episode "Ono and the Egg" has an African harrier-hawk named Mpishi as its main antagonist. She invades the Pride Lands (where hawks are not allowed to hunt due to not having a territory there) in search of new prey to eat and teams up with Mzingo's right-wing vulture Mwoga in order to outwit the Lion Guard.
  • Played with in The Penguins of Madagascar episode, "The Falcon and the Snow Job"; Skipper falls in love with Kitka, a falcon who crash-lands at the zoo and injures her wing. The other animals are suspicious of Kitka, since she eats smaller mammals, and think that Skipper's crush on her makes him oblivious to that fact, but Kitka promises not to eat Skipper's friends. One day, King Julien goes missing, and when a falcon feather is discovered in his habitat, the animals are all quick to point fingers at Kitka. Skipper travels to Kitka's nest to prove Kitka's innocence, and he turns out to be right; a male falcon was the one who snatched Julien and tried to eat him, and Kitka saved Julien from him.
  • The Transformers:
    • Laserbeak and Buzzsaw are Decepticons that transform into what are apparently condors.
    • The Predacon Divebomb (not those) turns into an eagle.


Video Example(s):


Dale's Falcon

Instead of hunting or doing tricks, Dale's new falcon would rather just maul Bill.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / BrutalBirdOfPrey

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