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Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey, also known as raptors, are meat eaters with special adaptations that enable them to capture their food. They have exceptionally good vision, a sharp, hooked beak and powerful feet with sharp talons.

Birds of Prey have very powerful and sensitive eyesight that enable them to locate and hunt their food. Their eyes can be upto 8 times more powerful than humans, enabling them to spot prey at great distances.

Stong feet and sharp talons enable birds of prey to catch and hold onto their prey. Some also use the incredible power of their feet to kill their prey simply by crushing.
A European Eagle Owl has feet powerful enough to kill a fox by crushing it's skull.

A sharp, hooked beak is important for birds of prey to be able to eat the food they catch. They use it to rip the meat into pieces small enough to digest.
Many large vultures have particularly powerful beaks that mean they can cut through the tough skin of carcasses they feed off.
Birds of Prey live on every continent and in every habitat of the world. They live in dense tropical jungles and scorching deserts, on rocky sea coasts and grassy plains, and high on the world's tallest mountains. Many, like peregrine falcons, have adjusted to the city's encroachment on their world. They live atop skyscrapers as though they were the rims of canyons, diving after pigeons that live below.
All birds of prey have exceptionally keen vision. In addition Owls have the ability to see well in dim light. Owls and a few other birds of prey have a disc shaped face which channels and captures sound and helps them to detect the position of their prey. Generally as a rule birds of prey except vultures do not have a sense of smell. A few new world vultures are capable of smelling and locating carrion.
Predators and Prey
Predators are animals and birds that are equipped to hunt and catch their own food to sustain life for themselves and their young. Birds of Prey vary in size and shape and the prey they catch vary greatly from the African Martial Eagle taking impala to the lightweight barn owl catching a field mouse.
There are about 500 species of birds of prey all over the world. They vary greatly in size from the 40 gram Elf Owl to the 15 kilogram Male Andean Condor with an 11 foot wingspan, the largest raptor in the world.
Size and shape.
Most female birds of prey are larger and heavier than the males. This is known as reverse dimorphism. The difference in size increases as the prey's speed and agility increases. The size difference allows an established mating pair to hunt a wider variety of prey in their territory.
Wings and flight.
Wing shape is an adaptation to a bird's foraging behaviour. Whether it be the swooping and gliding of the owl, to the high soaring eagle or the speed and agility of the falcon, birds of prey's flight patterns are determined from the shape of the wing.
Birds of Prey with broad wings such as eagles can glide across fields or soar on updrafts. This helps them cover long distances and hunt over large territories.
Falcons have long, pointed wings that give them great speed and acceleration. The most famous example of this is the Peregrine Falcon that hunts other birds by soaring above them and then dropping into an incrediblly fast stoop and striking their prey. Peregines have been recorded at speeds of over 200mph, making them the fastest animal in the world.
Short, broad wings make birds like hawks quick and manoeuvrable, meaning they can pursue their prey with great agility, for example a sparrowhawk flying in dense woodland.

Basic Anatomy of a Peregrine Falcon

Illustration by Jenny Crookes.
© 2014 Gauntlet Birds of Prey Eagle and Vulture Park.