We explain what birds of prey are, their classification, characteristics and feeding. In addition, his relationship with man and examples.
What are birds of prey?
Raptors, also called birds of prey or birds of prey, are predatory birds , that is, they hunt and feed on other animals. Therefore, its name comes from the Latin rapper , “seize” or “take by force.”
Predatory birds are extremely diverse, since they are each adapted to their specific ecosystem , in which they obviously play the role of the maximum predator in the chain. This is: they are not usually prey to anyone . Therefore, its size is usually large and its number of specimens is lower than that of those species that support it.
The human being has half tamed them, 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 the European nobility of the Middle Ages.
This sport greatly contributed to the raptors being a symbol, given their ferocity and position at the top of the food chain, of various monarchies and even entire nations, which is why it is possible to find some in shields, flags and representations .
Types of birds of prey
Birds of prey can be classified according to their activity schedule:
- Falconiform 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 “owl-like.” They are those that hunt at night, for example owls, owls and owls.
There is a considerable biological distance between the two categories and they are usually classified in different orders from the animal kingdom . Even so, their adaptive models throughout evolution tend to converge, that is, to be more or less similar, while they are the predators of the food chain .
Characteristics of birds of prey
To be considered raptors by ornithology, birds generally must have:
- Good vision to perceive its prey in the distance
- Strong claws , usually finished in sharp hooks, to hold it
- A strong curved beak , ideal for tearing the meat from the dam.
Otherwise, their essential characteristics can be very diverse, as well as their behavior .
What do birds of prey eat?
As we said before, birds of prey are hunters, who usually devour good-sized vertebrate animals , such as rodents, snakes, fish, other birds or even felids and canids of modest dimensions. 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
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 fur with black feathers on the tip and a yellowish beak with a sharp black tip.
- Peregrine Falcon ( Falco peregrinus ) . The most widely distributed bird of prey of all, with active populations on all continents except Antarctica, is between 36 and 49 cm high and is capable of flying at 320 kmph. It has a characteristic black and gray plumage.
- Short-eared owl ( Asio flammeus ) . One of the most widely distributed owls in the world, with an important presence in the Antarctic and South American circle , or in the Arctic circle and the northern temperate zone. It has an upward brown plumage that pales down 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 is native and endemic. It is a species seriously threatened with extinction since the end of the 20th century.
- Vulture torgo ( Torgos tracheliotus ) . One of the largest scavengers in Africa, equipped with a neck devoid of feathers and with pink bumps, similar to those of turkey. Its beak is large, black and coarse, ideal for opening the flesh of dead animals and even breaking the bones to access the bone marrow.