Falconidae A bird of prey or raptor is a bird that hunts its food, especially one that preys on mammals or other birds.
Diurnal birds of prey hunt with their beaks and talons. They belong to the order Accipitriformes and Falconiformes in several groups including:
For an alternative taxonomy, see also Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.
Nocturnal birds of prey -- the owls -- are separate from the diurnal families, and are in the order Strigiformes.
Other birds may also hunt large prey items, such as the shrikes, and some kingfishers, like the Kookaburra.
Although, as above, the term is sometimes used more broadly, in general it refers to diurnal species such as the hawks, eagles, buzzards, falcons and vultures.
Although other groups may fill similar ecological roles and sometimes appear closely related on first sight, this is largely because of convergent evolution.
Common terms and categories
Many terms are used to describe particular types of birds of prey, both by specialists and lay people, in ways that vary a good deal.
- Eagles are large raptors with long, broad wings and massive legs. True eagles have feathered legs and build large stick nests. (Non-specialists often use the term very broadly, to indicate almost any raptor.)
- Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs which spend a great deal of time soaring. In general they take live prey but mostly feed on carrion.
Falcons are small to medium sized birds of prey with long pointed wings. Unlike most other raptors, they belong to the Falconidae rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. No falcons build nests; instead, they appropriate old nests of other birds or lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows.
- Harriers are large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long, thin legs. Most hunt by gliding and circling low over grasslands and marshes on their long, broad wings.
- Buzzards are wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo (also commonly known as Hawks in North America).
Last updated: 05-13-2005 00:42:31