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Abstract Aim We analyse modern patterns of richness, presence and extinction of birds of prey (Accipitriforms and Falconiforms) in the Mediterranean and Macaronesian islands, using an integrated approach involving both biogeographical and human-induced factors. Location Forty-three islands grouped into nine Mediterranean and Macaronesian archipelagos. Methods Information about 25 species breeding during the past century and their fate (permanence or extinction) was compiled from the literature and regional reports. Jaccard's similarity index and cluster analyses were applied to define island assemblages. In order to detect the factors driving richness, presence and extinction, generalized linear models (GLM) were applied to 32 explanatory variables, evaluating location, physiography, isolation of island, taxonomic affinities and life-history patterns of the raptor species. Results Islands belonging to the same archipelago clustered when raptor assemblages were compared, revealing a marked biogeographical signal. Species richness was influenced by island area and accessibility from the continent (explained deviance of 51% in the GLM). Models of the probability of presence (explained deviance of 32%) revealed positive influences of migratory patterns (maximum for partial migrants), size of distribution areas and proximity to main migration routes. The model for probability of extinction explained only 8% of the deviance. It revealed that populations living on islands with a high density of human population were more prone to disappear. Also, raptors depending on human resources had more risk of extinction. Main conclusions Basic predictions of island biogeography can explain current patterns of raptor richness in the study area despite millennia of intense humanization processes. Colonization success appears to depend on life-history traits linked to migratory and dispersal strategies, whereas body-size constraints are not influential. Additionally, our results reveal the importance of species-based analyses in studies of island biogeography.