Birds of Prey or Raptors

The Sport of Falconry
Juvenile Black-shouldered Kite

American Kestrel

The World’s Largest and Strongest Birds of Prey

These are divided into two main groups:

Diurnal (day flying) birds of prey

Nocturnal (night flying) birds of prey:

Bird of Prey

Behavior / Description

It hunts for food, including other birds, primarily using their large talons and strong beaks that are well suited for the purpose of tearing flesh.

These large, powerful birds display a characteristic curved tip to their beak and have excellent vision that allows them to spot small prey at a distance.

The World’s Largest and Strongest Birds of Prey are …

If you include vultures (including condors):

The Andean Condor has the broadest wingspan – over 10 feet (3 meters).

The California Condor is the heaviest, weighing up to 31 lbs (14 kg); and the longest – up to 55 inches (1.4 meter).

If you don’t include vultures, the eagles are next in line as far as size is concerned.

The heaviest is the Stellar’s Eagle (up to 20 lbs or 9 kg).

The largest in terms of physical dimensions is the Philippine (up to 3.36 feet or 102 cm).

The most powerful is the Harpy Eagle with strong, curved talons that are as long as the claws of a grizzly bear (about 5 inches or 12.5 cm long).

Female Common Kestrel showing aggression

Bald Eagle

Raptor Names

  • Eagles: These are large birds of prey with long, broad wings and strong legs.
  • Kites: Characterized by their long wings and weak legs. They spend much of their time soaring. Even though they take live prey, they mostly feed on carrion (carcasses of a dead animals).
  • Falcons: Small to medium sized 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 but sometimes they lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows.
  • Owls: Nocturnal hunting birds of different sizes that fly soundlessly and have very acute senses of hearing and sight.
  • Harriers: Large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long thin legs. They generally hunt by gliding and circling low over grasslands and marshes on their long broad wings.
  • Hawks: Medium-sized birds of prey that are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. They typically have long tails.
  • Buzzards: Birds of prey with robust body and broad wings. Also referred to any bird of the genus Buteo (in North America commonly referred to as Hawks).
Northern Red-tailed Hawk
Photo of author

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4 thoughts on “Birds of Prey or Raptors”

    • The short version? They don…
      The short version? They don’t. In Northern Goshawks, the female will kill and feed her mate to the young if he doesn’t bring home enough food to supply the nest; Golden Eagles have been recorded deliberately predating upon Peregrine Falcons; and, as a falconer, I know of several instances of female birds killing their mates. If another raptor triggers a bird’s predatory instinct (one way we often see this in falconry is through a hawk “bating”—that is, leaping off the perch or glove in an attempt to go somewhere but hitting the end of its leash and flapping for a few moments (like a dog pulling on its leash, if the dog had wings)—and hitting the ground within the reach of another bird. Often, this on-the-ground flapping motion triggers the other bird’s predator mind and it attacks (sometimes kills) the other raptor.

      In fact, first-time parents will even kill and eat their own young.

    • Birds of prey can never…
      Birds of prey can never really be “tamed.” It is very rare for them to form any kind of bond with a human, because other than the bond to an actual mate, they almost never form bonds with others of their kind (the exception is Harris Hawks, these are all birds related to each other. So they have a limited social behavior, which they can transfer to a falconer). They can be trained, and in order to do so in the US you must be a federally licensed falconer North American Falconers Association. But you will not get any affection from them. The best you can expect is tolerance.

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