Wednesday, December 13

Raptors, The Birds of Prey

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Raptors are defined as those birds with the ability to use their claws or talons instead of their beaks to capture their food or prey. Hence the term Birds of Prey.

All raptors have sharp vision, powerful talons and a curved sharp beak. All of this is designed to make the capture and consumption of their food most efficient.

Over 500 different species make up the raptor family. Which includes eagles, falcons, hawks, kites, osprey, owls, vultures and the single species Secretary Bird. They are divided into 2 classes: nocturnal, those who can see and hunt at night and diurnal, those who hunt during the day.

Just some interesting facts to know:

  • Raptors eyesight is about ten times as sharp as humans.

  • Each foot has three toes that point to the front and on that points to the back

  • Owls and osprey have a reversible outer toe which can point either front or back

  • Bald eagles have 7,192 feathers on their heads, bodies and wings

  • Most female raptors are larger than the males

  • The largest bird in the world is the Andean Condor with an eleven-foot wingspan

  • The fastest bird in the world is the Peregrine Falcon which can reach speeds up to 200 mph

The wing shape of birds of prey varies according to how each best hunts its food. Wider wings allow birds to soar easily over fields, while thinner or pointed wings allow birds to maneuver easily through forests or dart quickly.

Raptors are found all over the world and are typically migratory birds. In migration, they will use land routes or follow shore lines around large bodies of water. The birds migrate away from the equator during spring months to find breeding grounds then migrate back towards the warmer equator during the fall.

The only predator for the vast majority of raptors is human. Encroachment into breeding territory in North America cause loss of an adequate food supply and results in birds being killed by speeding cars or running into power lines.

In the US, it is illegal to shoot or in any way harm raptors. This is the same for all migratory birds. A special permit is required to handle or possess raptors. This even includes a feather.

These birds assist the human population by keeping small mammal populations in check. Falcons are also known to keep the pidgeon populations in large cities under control. These are magnificent creatures who deserve our respect.  

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