A bird of prey, or raptor, is a bird that hunts its food using
its curved beak and talons. They also generally have sexual dimorphism
and excellent vision.
Nocturnal birds of prey (the owls) are separate from the diurnal
families, and are in the order Strigiformes. Although the term "raptor"
is sometimes used more broadly, in generally it includes owls, as
they too are carnivorous birds, preying on mice and other small
Although other groups may fill similar ecological roles and sometimes
appear closely related on first sight, this is largely because of
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.
Booted 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.
Instead of building their own nests, falcons appropriate old nests
of other birds. Sometimes they 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.
Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that belong to the genus Accipiter.
They are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a
concealed perch. They usually have long tails and high visual acuity.
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.
Other birds are opportunistic omnivores and, although their diet
may consist of meat when the meal presents itself (as with roadkill),
they are not technically considered strictly carnivorous birds.
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