Facts about birds of prey

Monday, June 20, 2011

  • Many species of birds feed on flesh, but 2 groups—the birds of prey and the owls—have become highly specialised in a hunting way of life, and feed mainly on the higher vertebrates.
  • Birds of prey are found on all the continents except Antarctica.
  • Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food mainly on the wing, using their sharp senses, especially vision.
  • These birds kill their prey with their strong, sharp talons and pluck and tear the flesh with their narrow, hooked beaks.
  • Most birds of prey also eat carrion at least occasionally and the vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source.
  • Birds of prey and owls can exist in the same area together since they are active at different times, the birds of prey during daylight hours and the owls at night.
  • The word "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere (meaning to seize or take by force) and may refer informally to all birds of prey, or specifically to the diurnal group.
  • Although their eyesight is excellent and adapted to make the best use of poor light, owls also have a highly developed sense of hearing.
  • Under experimental conditions it was discovered that a barn owl could catch its prey in total darkness, using its ears to judge the distance perfectly.
  • The smallest bird of prey is the Philippine falconet, which is only about 15 cm (6 inches) long and eats insects; the largest is the Andean condor, with a wingspan of nearly 3 m (10 feet), which feeds mainly on carrion.
  • All the birds of prey are active hunters, but their methods vary considerably.
  • Most birds of prey have strong curved talons for catching or killing prey.
  • The eagles, which are powerful soaring birds, live mainly in open country and mountains.
  • The golden eagle hunts mainly rabbits, mountain hares, grouse and very occasionally a sickly lamb.
  • The true hawks are broad-winged, long-tailed birds, adapted to life in woodlands where they stalk and pounce on their prey.
  • The most spectacular of the birds of prey are the falcons.
  • Because of their gracefully controlled flight and their apparent courage, the birds of prey have always appealed to man.

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