Few animals radiate the strength and majesty of birds of prey. They're fast, powerful and look intense, netting them a spot right at the top of both the food chain and the minds of people worldwide. From Roman symbols through medieval heraldry right to the forefront of American cultural symbols, they have almost always had a proud and noble reputation. Whether a character in their own right or a symbol of the strength of another, raptors are not to be sneered at.
Though always considered powerful and usually majestic, certain birds have their own special attributes as well. Eagles, for instance, are associated with power, royalty and empire while hawks represent aggression even in the English language itself. Of course, being symbols of pride and power is not always a positive thing: They can also be portrayed as cruel or merciless, this portrayal being commonly attributed to falcons.
If they appear in a Funny Animals setting you can expect them to be among the most badass members of the cast and with a fearsome reputation. In a world with only humans, they may appear with the real world usage of heraldry or perhaps utilized by a Warrior Prince as a Cool Pet. Two-headed eagles, historically the symbol of several historical empires, are particularly associated with heraldry, empires and royalty.
See Feathered Fiend for more atrocious avians and Giant Flyer for enormous birds. It should also be noted that, while owls and vultures are also considered birds of prey, they usually have very different connotations in fiction. Only add examples pertaining to them here if they fit the "noble, majestic, badass hero" stereotype.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. All 5 members of the team represent a different type of bird.
- In Yaiba, Kotaro Fuuma's true form is that of a Hawk-Man. Yaiba is almost killed by him.
- Hawkmon from Digimon Adventure 02 qualifies as this, being a heroic, well-mannered hawk Digimon who is one of the protagonists.
- Generally, all Bird-type Pokémon Ash and his companions manage to capture. Pidgeotto is a obvious case. It introduced itself trying to eat Caterpie (as expected from a hungry bird), though as soon as it was captured, it became a loyal battler and friend for Ash's group.
- Berserk: Griffith, "The White Hawk", is the legendary commander of the mercenary band known as The Band of the Hawk - a Long-Haired Pretty Boy who wears a masked helmet shaped like a bird's beak, he has an almost supernatural air of nobility about him which inspires his men to Undying Loyalty. Later in the series he picks up a Feather Motif, and his charisma grows to the point where the Church starts to consider that he may be their Messiah figure, the Hawk of Light. Unfortunately for them, he's actually the other guy.
- While most translations of the series render it as "hawk", the Japanese word taka also includes falcons. In a combination of Lost in Translation and Lucky Translation, taka is increasingly replaced by the English word "falcon" as Griffith shows more of his true self, including his cruelty and desire to reach greater heights (both traits associated with falcons over hawks). By contrast Guts, one of the last survivors of the Band of the Hawk, is a tough, scrappy fighter whose Brand of Sacrifice forces him to become increasingly vigilant against danger (both traits associated with hawks over falcons).
- In The Apotheosis of Washington, a fierce eagle accompanies Lady Freedom in deposing the regal representation of Tyranny for the sake of their almighty god, George Washington.
- Subverted by painting Hyökkäys (The Assault) by Finnish artist Edvard Isto. The two-headed eagle has attacked Maiden Finland, attempting to wrench the Book of Law off her hands. The painting was made in protest of Czar bypassing both the Finnish and Russian laws and stating illicit ukases on Russification policy in Finland.
- There is an exclusively female superhero group in the DCU named the Birds of Prey
- Judge Dredd: Judges have a massive eagle for one shoulder pad, and eagles are a prominent symbol in all parts of the Judge System. Carlos Ezquerra says he chose the eagle because it was heavily associated with both American freedom and fascist Spain and Nazi Germany; thus, it serves as a reminder of how something good can be perverted into evil by good intentions.
- In The Feather of Finist the Falcon, the handsome prince Finist turns into a falcon.
- The Urthblood Saga: Urthblood, the warlord and titular character, employs several of these as personal fighters, spies and messengers.
- Parvarotti, Blain'se Dragon Hawk in Solar Winds instills fear in all who dare come near—except for Blaine, who treats him like one of his best friends. Parvarotti is a messenger hawk and is fiercely protective of Blaine.
- In The Lion King Adventures, the Hermit of Hekima is a giant golden eagle with telepathic abilities and insight into the future. He acts as a guide for Simba, Nala and Haiba in Series Five.
- In A Growing Affection, Iruka has a hawk summoning contract. And his familiars are all named after fighter jets.
- The Fairy Tail fanfic "The Eagle in the Oak Tree" introduces Aquila the Eagle, a Celestial Spirit that appears as a golden eagle and uses lightning magic. Aquila refuses to serve a Celestial mage who is afraid of lightning, so he throws lightning from his perch in a towering oak tree until Lucy passes his test of bravery by climbing up the tree to grab his gate key.
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has a bald eagle; he symbolises the title character's freedom and homeland.
- The Rescuers Down Under has a wedge-tailed eagle that's big enough for a small boy to ride on. Wedge-tails are among the largest flying birds in the world, but real ones still aren't that big.
- Quest for Camelot: Has Ayden, a falcon with silver wings who typically acts as Garret's "seeing-eye bird". It's strongly implied that he's a familiar for Merlin.
- Like the books it's based on, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is unusual in that it has owls filling this trope.
- The Nativity Story uses a hawk to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Quite a step up from the usual dove.
- In Our Man Flint, the Galaxy organization has an anti-American eagle guarding its headquarters: it's trained to detect and attack Americans. After Flint destroys the Island Base, the last scene in the movie is the eagle soaring over it.
- In The Mummy Returns, Ardeth Bey has a messenger-falcon named Horus.
- In After Earth, there is an eagle. A gigantic eagle. It is large enough to carry off a teenage boy, and is incredibly protective of its offspring.
- In Ladyhawke, the heroine is in the shape of a hawk from dawn to dusk, resulting in many shots of a majestic redtailed hawk riding on Rutger Hauer's glove.
- The Animorphs use these morphs as their primary means of travel. Then of course there is Tobias who is now a red-tailed hawk in his natural form.
- Further played with in the David Trilogy, when new Sixth Ranger David chooses a golden eagle as his first morph, a bird easily larger and more dangerous than any other the kids have morphed so far, with the exception of Rachel's bald eagle.
- The blue hawk in Peter Dickinson's novel The Blue Hawk. The the novel describes the process of taming and training a large bird of prey with realism.
- In the Discworld novel Lords and Ladies, Lady Jane the goshawk takes down one of The Fair Folk. The elf in question had ordered her to kill Hodgesaargh, the falconer, without realizing just how vicious and how prone to attacking the closest person available — including her would-be falconer — she was. She immediately went for the elf's throat.
Hodgesaargh: She's done that to me too. Sorry about that. She's very intelligent...
- Pops up all the time in Guardians of Ga'Hoole, since birds of prey make up almost the entire cast. In addition to the owl protagonists (themselves a rare example of owls filling this trope as opposed to being scary or wise), we also have a couple of bald eagles who help Hortense the spotted owl rescue orphaned owlets from St. Aggie's.
- In Harry Potter, Rowena Ravenclaw is one of the four founders of Hogwarts and valued wisdom above all things. Her signature animal is—contrary to what you might expect from her name—an eagle.
- Mercedes Lackey is very fond of birds in general, but particularly raptors. In her Heralds of Valdemar novels she has a whole culture of people with avian Bond Creatures called the Hawkbrothers, although some of them have corvids or something more exotic.
- Ice Falcon by Rita Ritchie, about a falconer's apprentice who travels to Iceland to capture a white gyrfalcon and ransom his father with it.
- Paradise Lost: The nobility of lady Victory, who sits on the right side of Christ's sun-chariot, is indicated by her eagle-wings that call to mind the Roman insignia.
- The Prophecy of the Stones has a group of them that guard Oonagh's cave, and in addition to being big scary birds they feed on fear.
- Birds of prey in Redwall are always on the side of good, though being predators they tend towards Creepy Awesome.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the falcon is the sigil of the House of Arryn (whose words are "As High As Honor"), founded by Ser Artys Arryn, the Falcon Knight, who led the Andal invasion of the Vale. In-universe, Ser Artys is often conflated with the Winged Knight, a legendary figure who the supposedly rode a huge falcon and had armies of eagles at this command, despite the fact that the Winged Knight would have lived thousands of years before Ser Artys.
- Ythrians in Technic History are not raptors biologically and are not even avian. But they are intelligent predators capable of flight and they have the personality attributed to raptors and a culture appropriate to it.
- In Tolkien's Legendarium, the eagles are the messengers of Manwe. Being possibly Maiar would make them immortal, and at least one of them (Gwaihir) was listed as being alive in both the First and Third Ages, thousands of years apart. In their appearance in The Hobbit, they apparently take great pleasure in messing with Goblins' and Worgs' evil plans and later join the Dwarves, Men and Elves in fighting them at the Battle of the Five Armies. At the end, the Lord of the Eagles (who may or may not be Gwaihir) was described as becoming the King of All Birds and being given a share of Smaug's treasure, including a crown.
- The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Eyrie Clans who live in Fantasyland's mountains are stated to raise hawks and eagles that live and fight alongside them, and which are apparently bred to be telepathic.
- Henrik Wergeland: Inverted this in his poem follow the call, as the eagle also is the symbol of a poet:
Royal Eagle, chained and bound
by the leg, with broken wing,
who, for over twenty years —
since the shot that crippled him
has served as fettered guard
in a poor smallholder's yard.
Despite his wounded limb he has
less of sadness than the poet
Born into a wilderness
unheeding as this dreary land...
- Super Sentai / Power Rangers:
- Star Trek: Both the Romulans and Klingons have warships referred to as Birds of Prey or Warbirds. The Klingon one is pretty small but the Romulan one is massive. The Romulans are also associated with eagles, likely due to the parallels with the Roman Empire.
- In an episode of The Tudors, Anne Boleyn and her father handle a Harris's hawk. As the Harris's hawk is native to the Americas, it's Misplaced Wildlife, but it looks cool.
- The Borgias also has a misplaced Harris hawk, being carried by Caterina Sforza, a Lady of War.
- In The 10th Kingdom, the Huntsman tracking the protagonists sports a magical crossbow with a falcon's head that issues corresponding calls when "ready to go" and shoots homing' arrows.
- In The Aquabats! Super Show!, Eaglebones Falconhawk gains the power to summon a magical invisible hawk named The Dude.
- Eluveitie, a folk metal band, has lots of songs about the historic struggles between the Gauls and the Roman empire. Eagles are sometimes used to represent the Roman enemy.
- Sabaton often uses the eagle to represent Nazi Germany. In "Inmate 4859", the lyrics sung by the backing choir include the phrase "White eagle", a reference to the white eagle used as a symbol of Poland.
- Birds of prey are usually aligned with White mana in Magic: The Gathering, the color of magic more often associated with light and morality. However, as White is not always good, they do get to also be major villains (Lieutenant Kirtar) or mindless predators, including phyrexian variants.
- Warhammer: High Elves and Wood Elves have access to Giant Eagles, both as their own unit and as mounts for their Lords and Heroes. They later get an upgrade to flying chariot pulled by a giant eagle. The Eagles themselves are proud, noble birds that nest in the high peaks of Ulthuan and the Old World and are stalwarts foes of Chaos and the Greenskins, in addition to appearing immune to Chaos corruption. There are also War Hawks, lesser but still great birds that nest in the mountains near Athel Loren as allies of the Wood Elves, sometimes consenting to carry Elven soldiers on their backs into battle.
- Warhammer 40,000: The double-headed eagle is the symbol of the Imperium of Man. Whenever praying to the Emperor, worshippers and devotees are said to "make the sign of the Aquila" (Aquila meaning "eagle" in Latin/High Gothic). The Emperor of Mankind is known to be from central Anatolia (currently Turkey), very close to the areas where two-headed eagle symbols first arose and were codified in western culture.
- BattleTech has Clan Jade Falcon, one of the most aggressive Clans in the Inner Sphere, they later have bird themed mechs like the Jade Hawk.
- Giant eagles are Neutral Good creatures who serve as guardians and protectors for their mountain homes and the creatures that live there.
- Abadar, the Lawful Neutral god of law and civilization, is strongly associated with eagles and giant eagles, especially the two-headed kind, and with part-eagle creatures such as griffons and hippogriffs. He himself sometimes takes the form of a two-headed eagle to watch over his followers.
- Command & Conquer: There's a reason why the Global Defense Initiative uses a swooping hawk as their emblem: power, authority, majesty.
- World of Warcraft
- Hunters can tame eagles as pets. They come with the racial ability Snatch, which damages and disarms targets for six seconds, very handy for fighting humanoids and other weapon-wielding foes, and even some raid bosses.
- Druids have the ability to turn into Storm Crows (except Trolls, who turn into bats instead).
- In Dragon Age II, birds of prey are a prevalent feature of Kirkwall architecture and many nobles favour them in their coat of arms. For instance, the Viscount uses a Falcon as his symbol, while the Amell family crest is adorned with two Eagles, later adopted by their scion, Hawke.
- Fire Emblem Tellius: The laguz include a Hawk tribe who shapeshift between birds of prey and Winged Humanoids.
- The Turians of Mass Effect are meant to evoke this image◊, although in a subtle way, being "realistic" aliens in a hard sci-fi setting. They are also a Proud Warrior Race of Space Romans, and their homeworld is in the Aquila (Eagle) Nebula.
- The rocket-wielding Benedict from Battleborn who's a Hawk alien.
- The only bird of prey in Aviary Attorney, Jayjay Falcon, can be extremely noble, or not, depending on the choices the player has. As a predatory species he's expected to have a degree of ambition and bloodlust, as well as keen foresight.
- Most of the final evolutions of the common regional birds, such as Pidgeot and Swellow, gain raptorial traits, as well as mentions in the Pokédex of their hunting prowess, majesty and flying abilities. Staraptor is the one that takes to this the most, with a great deal of emphasis being put on its fierce nature, strength and courage, and how it never stops fighting even if injured.
- The Fire/Flying-type Talonflame, based off of the peregrine falcon, is also an evolution of one of the early game birds, and its entries tend to focus on how passionate of a hunter and fighter it is.
- Braviary, an eagle Pokémon with feathers in the color of the American flag, takes to this trope more than any other Pokémon. Its referred to as the hero of the sky, fights for its friends without any thought of its own safety, and the more scars it has, the more respect it gets from its peers.
- Among the regional birds, there are two notable aversions—Unova's Unfezant is based on a galliforme rather than a raptor and compared to birds like Pidgeot and Swellow, its claws and beak are diminished and pathetic. Instead, the Pokedex entries focus on its beauty and loyalty to its trainer, as opposed to its prowess as a predator (Unova's raptor niche seems to belong to the aforementioned Braviary and its counterpart Mandibuzz). Alola, meanwhile, has Toucannon, which as its name suggests, is based on a toucan and explicitly stated to be a frugivore.
- The Elder Scrolls
- Auri-El is the Aldmeri (Elven) aspect of Akatosh, the draconic God of Time and chief deity of the Aedric Divine pantheon. As Auri-El, he takes the form of a majestic golden eagle and is referred to as the "King of Gods". As such, the eagle is the Animal Motif of the Aldmeri Dominion, showing up in everything from their sigils and banners to their very weapons and armor.
- Similarly, Kyne, the old Nordic aspect of Kynareth, the Aedric Divine Goddess of the Air and Heavens, is associated with and often represented by a hawk.
- Angry Birds: Mighty Eagle, the strongest of all the birds, is described as the wise and valiant Big Good of the flock.
- Epic Rap Battles of History: The match between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney features a massive bald eagle, the symbol of the United States Of America. Is it on Obama's side? Romney's? Nope! It's airlifting Abraham Lincoln, looking like he's fresh out of his match with Chuck Norris in Season One, dropping in to give both competitors a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Stanley from Rain Quest, a bald eagle who Joel and Nina meet horribly injured. They heal him, and he befriends them, acting as transportation for them, and helping them fight off some other, meaner birds.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation uses hawks as messenger birds. Sokka buys one because he thinks it makes him look impressive.
- In Brother Bear, Sitka's totem is the Eagle of Guidance. He later takes the form of a bald eagle as a spirit guide.
- A few Transformers have bird of prey alt modes. It's more prevalent in Beast Wars, for obvious reasons. Silverbolt stands out as being equal parts eagle and wolf.
- In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Forest of Magi Oar" Giant Flyer Viragor is atypically depicted as an ignoble, territorial monster, haunting the titular forest, antagonizing travellers and the forest's protectors the Wood Forgers. Later it's revealed that he is the forests' ancient protector, while the wood forgers are opportunistic industrialists.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is looking for the coolest pet, i.e. the best, most majestic, most awesome, etc. She is presented with the possibility of having a falcon or an eagle as her pet, and indeed both make it to the final competition — a race through Ghastly Gorge. The falcon wins the race, but Rainbow's Exact Words dictated that whichever one crossed the finish line WITH HER would become her pet. Since Tank the tortoise was the only one to stop and help her after she was trapped by an avalanche, the falcon rather gracefully concedes defeat, even shaking Tank's hand.
- An episode of Ivanhoe: The King's Knight features the imprisoned Richard proving himself alive by sending the royal medallion to England via a big, badass eagle!
- Double-headed eagles show at numerous points in history:
- The oldest archaeological artifact of the double-headed eagle is Sumerian, circa 20th century BC, and is thought to have been used as royal insignia.
- The double-headed eagle was a symbol of the Byzantine Empire, with one head looking East (Constantinople) and one West (Rome). As symbol for the Holy Roman Empire, it represented Church and State. This symbolism was later used by a number of other nations, such as the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro, as the symbol of both royal houses and the state itself.
- The eagle was also famously used as a national symbol by Rome, countries that claimed to be the "Third Rome" (Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Fascist Italy), countries which inherited the symbolism from them in turn (Austria, Prussia, Germany), and even countries which have sought to emulate Rome's republic era (the United States). Italy's claim of being the heir of Imperial Rome is better than most, by virtue of being Rome's heartland. However, the symbol is not used anymore due the abuse made by the Fascist regime, and so Italy associates itself with the wolf instead (based on the story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she-wolf).
- This was why the bald eagle was selected to be the national bird of the United States of America; people believed that the eagle's fierce expression was a representation of power and nobility. If Benjamin Franklin had his way, America would have averted the trope by adopting the turkey instead.
- Played with by Hungary, every country that's invaded or otherwise subjugated them have used eagles as their symbol; in response Hungary uses a falcon. Specifically, the mythical bird called the "turul" has long been a symbol of Hungary. It is theorized to be based on the saker falcon, but in almost all of its modern depictions it appears as a massive, hulking eagle-like bird,◊ usually with a sword in its talons.
- Mexico's eagle is of Aztec origin, hence it's preying on a snake over a cactus. It had a rather Romanesque pose during the time of the II Empire (1864-1867) and Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship (1881-1917).
- The art of falconry is all about using trained birds of prey for hunting. Falconry is almost Older Than Dirt, with evidence of falconry found in both Chinese and Assyrian records dating back to 7th~6th century BC.
- In Mongolia, there's a tradition of hunting with trained golden eagles.
- Falconry was once the favorite sport of European nobility. In medieval England, there was a hierarchy of "socially appropriate" birds one could use depending on their station, as described in manuscripts such as Booke of Hawkyng after Prince Edwarde Kyng of Englande. Birds such as eagles, peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons were considered appropriate for kings and emperors only, while kestrels were considered appropriate for common servants — thereby combining this trope with Asskicking Equals Authority.
- A lot of Cool Plane models are themselves named after this trope, fighters in particular.
- Hawker Aircraft made a number of Cool Planes during World War II including the Hurricane which was the Royal Air Force's meat and potatoes and the Typhoon which was terrifying at close support and interdiction.
- Rolls-Royce, who had been making piston aircraft engines since World War I, named all of their engine types after birds of prey by custom. The engine powering the Hurricane was the Merlin (not the wizard, but a type of falcon).
- The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is famous for its worldwide service record of 104 kills to 0 losses in air-to-air combat (as of 2015). It's certainly done its namesake proud.
- As would its stablemate, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.
- The F-15's intended replacement, the F-22 Raptor, is even more impressive. Like its predecessor, the Raptor has an impressive service record with no combat losses. With stealth, maneuverability, and supercruise advantages, the Raptor has become the ultimate bird of prey.
- The Harrier Jump Jet, a British fighter jet capable of taking off vertically, is named after a type of hawk.
- Several sports teams such as the Atlanta Hawks (basketball), the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Seattle Seahawks (all football).
- A white eagle is often used as a nationalist symbol of Poland. The fact that it's depicted with white feathers, gold claws, a gold beak, and wearing a gold crown takes this trope Up to Eleven.
- The Kremlin uses goshawks and an owl to scare off crows.