Bird of prey

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For other uses, see Bird of prey (disambiguation).

Birds of prey, also known as raptors, hunt and feed on other animals. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere (meaning to seize or take by force).[1] These birds are characterized by keen vision that allows them to detect prey during flight and powerful talons and beaks.

Many species of birds may be considered partly or exclusively predatory. However, in ornithology, the term "bird of prey" applies only to birds of the families listed below. Taken literally, the term "bird of prey" has a wide meaning that includes many birds that hunt and feed on animals and also birds that eat very small insects.[2] In ornithology, the definition for "bird of prey" has a narrower meaning: birds that have very good eyesight for finding food, strong feet for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh.[3] Most birds of prey also have strong curved talons for catching or killing prey.[3][4] An example of this difference in definition, the narrower definition excludes storks and gulls, which can eat quite large fish, partly because these birds catch and kill prey entirely with their beaks,[2] and similarly bird-eating skuas, fish-eating penguins, and vertebrate-eating kookaburras are excluded. Birds of prey generally prey on vertebrates, which are usually quite large relative to the size of the bird.[2] Most also eat carrion, at least occasionally, and vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source.[3] Many raptor species are considered apex predators.

Classification by ancestry[edit]

The diurnal birds of prey are formally classified into five families.

These families have traditionally been grouped together in a single order Falconiformes. The Cathartidae have also been placed separately in an enlarged stork family (Ciconiiformes) or may be raised to an order of their own (Cathartiiformes). Also, the Falconidae are often split from the others, giving two orders: Falconiformes and Accipitriformes.

The secretary bird and/or osprey are sometimes listed as subfamilies of Acciptridae: Sagittariinae and Pandioninae respectively.

The nocturnal birds of prey – the owls – are classified separately as members of two extant families of the order Strigiformes:

The observation that otherwise unrelated bird groups may perform similar ecological roles and bear striking morphological similarities to one another is explained by the concept of convergent evolution.

Common names[edit]

The common names for various birds of prey are based on structure, but many of the traditional names do not reflect the evolutionary relationships between the groups.

Variations in shape and size

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, Leslie (1997). Birds of Prey. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-732-X. 
  2. ^ a b c Burton, Philip (1989). Birds of Prey. illustrated by Boyer, Trevor; Ellis, Malcolm; Thelwell, David. Gallery Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-8317-6381-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Perrins, Christopher, M; Middleton, Alex, L. A., eds. (1984). The Encyclopaedia of Birds. Guild Publishing. p. 102. 
  4. ^ Fowler, D.W., Freedman, E.A., & Scannella, J.B. (2009). "Predatory Functional Morphology in Raptors: Interdigital Variation in Talon Size Is Related to Prey Restraint and Immobilisation Technique". PLoS ONE. 4(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007999. PMC 2776979. PMID 19946365. 

Further reading[edit]

Olsen, Jerry 2014, Australian High Country Raptors, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, ISBN 9780643109162.

External links[edit]