Birds of Prey – Concept, characteristics, types and examples

We explain what birds of prey are, the types that there are and their characteristics. Also, their diet and some examples.

birds of prey prey raptors predator
Birds of prey, such as the saker falcon, are hunting animals.

What are birds of prey?

Birds of prey, also called birds of prey or birds of prey, they are the predatory birds, that is, they hunt and feed on other animals. Therefore, its name comes from the Latin rapper, “Seize” or “take by force.”

Raptors are extremely diverse among themselves, since each one is adapted to its specific ecosystem, in which they obviously play the role of the highest predator in the chain. This is: they are not usually prey to anyone. Thus, its size is usually large and its number of specimens is lower than that of those species that support it.

The human being has domesticated them half, for a sport called falconry, taking advantage of the hunting instincts of some of these bird species. This discipline, almost 4 thousand years old, was extremely popular among medieval European nobility.

This sport greatly contributed to making raptors a symbol, given their ferocity and their position at the top of the food chain, of various monarchies and even entire nations, which is why it is possible to find some on shields, flags and representations .

Types of birds of prey

birds of prey prey raptors predator types owl
Strigiform raptors hunt at night.

Birds of prey can be classified according to their activity schedule:

  • Falconiformes or diurnal. Its name means “hawk-like.” They are those that hunt during the day, for example vultures, eagles, hawks, hawks, kestrels, etc.
  • Strigiform or nocturnal. Its name means “similar to the owl.” They are those that hunt at night, for example owls, owls and owlets.

There is a considerable biological distance between the two categories and they are usually classified in different orders of the animal kingdom. Even so, their adaptive models throughout evolution tend to converge, that is, to be more or less similar, as they are the predators of the food chain.

Characteristics of birds of prey

birds of prey prey raptors predator beak vision
Birds of prey have excellent vision and a curved beak.

To be considered as birds of prey by ornithology, generally the birds must have:

  • Good vision. To perceive their prey in the distance.
  • Strong claws. Generally finished in sharp hooks, to hold it.
  • A strong curved beak. Ideal for tearing the meat of the prey.

For the rest, their essential characteristics can be very different from each other, as well as their behavior.

What do birds of prey eat?

birds of prey prey raptors predator feeding hunting
Birds of prey are predatory carnivores.

As we said earlier, birds of prey are hunters, which they tend to eat large vertebrate animals, such as rodents, snakes, fish, other birds or even cats and canids of modest size. In some cases it is possible that they feed on carrion, which in the case of vultures and condors has ended up being their main diet.

Examples of birds of prey

birds of prey prey raptors predator examples golden eagle
The golden eagle is trained in Mongolia to participate in hunts.

Some of the most popular birds of prey are:

  • Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). One of the most common aerial predators in the world, widely present in North America, Central America, Eurasia and North Africa. It has a brown coat with black feathers at the tip and a yellowish bill with a sharp black tip.
  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). The most widely distributed bird of prey of all, with active populations on every continent except Antarctica, it is between 36 and 49 cm tall and capable of flying at 320 kmph. It has a characteristic black and gray plumage.
  • Short-eared owlAsio flammeus). One of the most widely distributed owls in the world, with an important presence in the Antarctic Circle and South America, or in the Arctic Circle and the North Temperate Zone. It has an upward brown plumage that pales down from the animal and a pair of short ears on its flat face and large eyes.
  • Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Also called the American eagle, it has been taken as a symbol of the United States, whose geography it is native and endemic. It is a seriously threatened species of extinction since the end of the 20th century.
  • Torgo vultureTorgos tracheliotus). One of the largest scavengers in Africa, with a neck devoid of feathers and with pink bumps, similar to those of a turkey. Its beak is large, black and coarse, ideal for opening the meat of dead animals and even breaking the bones to access the marrow.