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Birds of Prey

Amongst the winged species of the animal kingdom, people are most ignorant about the birds of prey. In fact, it is surprising to note that there are quite a few in this world who don’t know hawks from eagles or that the owl is actually a nocturnal bird. Still many more don’t even know what actually a bird of prey is and would gleefully declare a robin to be one.

What is a Bird of Prey?

A bird of prey is also known as a “raptor”. The raptor is a bird that stalks its food primarily using its talon. It usually has a sharp and arched beak along with a keen vision. Remember, how the eagle spots and then swoops down from high above the skies on a tiny field mouse that has just peeped out from its burrow.

Classifications Amongst Birds of Prey

Birds of prey can be diurnal or nocturnal, that is those that hunt during the day and those that hunt at night. The diurnal birds of prey either belong to the order Accipitriformes or Falconiformes.

There are sub-groups within these orders too. For instance, if you consider the Accipitriformes group, the following are the sub-classifications:

  1. Sagittariidae: The Secretary Bird belongs to this group.
  2. Accipitridae: Our familiar hawks, eagles and kites fall in this category. Some other birds of this group are buzzards and Old World vultures.
  3. Pandionidae: The Osprey is a prime example of a bird of prey belonging to the Pandionidae group.

Amongst the other diurnal birds of prey, falcons are Falconidae, belonging to the order Falconiformes.

The owl is a nocturnal bird of prey belonging to the Strigiformes order.

It is obvious that there exists significant differences amongst the raptors of the various orders and genus, but delving into their individual characteristics, you will also notice striking similarities, apart from the fact that they are birds of prey.

Some Interesting Facts About Birds of Prey

  1. The hawks have been proven to be amongst the most intelligent of all birds, as measured on the avian IQ scale that concentrates on their dietary habits and has been devised by the Canadian scientist Dr Louis Lefebvre. Care for a MENSA membership?
  2. The name of the genus that harriers belong to, that is “Circus”, is derived from the particular habit of these birds of circling the skies in search of prey.
  3. Not all owls are nocturnal. The Pygmy Owl hunts during the twilight hours, that is during the dawn and dusk hours, while there are also owls, namely the Burrowing Owl and the Short-eared Owl, that hunt during the day.
  4. The word “hawk” is also used loosely to mean any bird of prey.
  5. The word “eagle” usually meant the Golden Eagle in England before 1678.
  6. The huge pupil of the eagle is the reason behind its sharp eyesight. Large pupils cause minimum dispersal of the light that enter the eyes.
  7. Fossils of falcons dating back to 50-million years have been found in Germany.

Birds of prey form an interesting aspect of study for the ornithologists and the laymen alike.

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