Birds are some of the most commonly spotted animals around the world as they can be found in most of the world's regions. Some of the most frequently located are the birds of prey which are often referred to as raptors. The word raptor has its roots in the Latin language from the word rapere which refers to taking an object by force. Raptors have some common characteristics such as their exceptionally keen eyesight which allows them to spot prey from far. Other common features include talons that enable them to grab their prey and later kill them. Apart from hunting prey, birds of prey may also rely on carrion as the source of food. Some of the most well-known raptors include eagles, owls, kites, and hawks.
Eagles are some of the famous raptors in the world mainly due to their large size and strength. Due to their imposing presence, eagles have been used as the national symbol in some countries such as the United States (bald eagle), Mexico, Albania, and Poland. Eagles have a wide range of habitat that encompasses several nations such as the US, Papua New Guinea, Canada, and Australia. Eagles are typically larger than other birds of prey with the vulture being the exception. Some of the most famous eagle species include the South Nicobar serpent eagle which holds the distinction of being the smallest species of eagle, the golden eagle for being one of the largest species of eagle, and the martial eagle that has exceptionally powerful eyes.
The osprey, commonly referred to as a fish hawk or a river hawk, is a raptor that feeds mainly on fish. Ospreys are enormous birds with a wingspan of roughly five feet on average. The habitat of the ospreys is considered to be cosmopolitan since they can be found in every continent save for Alaska. Data indicates that ospreys have the second most extensive distribution among raptors with the peregrine falcon being the first. Ospreys have developed some unique traits that aid them in catching fish such as their unique reversible outer toes and the scales on their talons which face backward to assist them in holding onto their catch.
The term kite is used to refer to two subfamilies of raptors; the Elaninae and the Milvinae. Apart from the two distinct subfamilies, several members of the Perninae subfamily such as the Cuban kite and the White-collared kite are also classified as kites. The diet of the kite depends on the type of the kite with the snail kite feeding on snails while the black kite feeds on rats and other rodents.
7. True Hawks
The term true hawk is used to refer to members of the subfamily Accipitrinae and encompasses different bird species. Some of the birds classified as true hawks include the northern goshawk, the crested goshawk, the spot-tailed sparrowhawk and the semi-collared hawk. Due to a large number of birds that are classified as true hawks, the group has a wide range of characteristics and feeding habits. Despite the distinction among the birds, they have some common traits such as powerful eyesight and sharp talons.
Owls are raptors famous because they usually hunt at night. Ornithologists estimate that there are roughly 216 distinct species of owls with some of the most popular being the barn owls and the Northern hawk owls. All the owl species have some unique traits such as their binocular vision, extremely sharp talons, and feathers uniquely adapted to allow the owls to have silent flight. Owls also have unique hearing abilities, referred to as binaural hearing, which enables them to locate prey by identifying the location from which their sound originates. Owls can be spotted in all of the regions of the world with the only exception being several remote islands and at the polar ice caps.
Vultures are some of the most well-known raptors in the world mainly due to their feeding habits as they are usually spotted feeding on carrion. Vultures are divided into two distinct types, the Old World vultures which are commonly located in Africa, Asia, and Europe and the New World vultures which are often found in Canada and the US. Despite both groups being classified as vultures, they do not share a close evolutionary relationship. New World Vultures are unique since they have an exceptionally well-developed sense of smell. Vultures are some of the most exceptional scavengers due to the extremely corrosive acid found in their stomach that allows them to consume meat that would harm other scavengers due to the bacteria it contains.
The term buzzard is applied to some species of raptors such as the Archer's buzzard, the Madagascar buzzard, the long-legged buzzard, and the augur buzzard. The group has a wide range of characteristics and occupies a wide range of habitats because there are a large number of species within the group.
Harrier is a term that is applied to some hawks which are members of the Circinae subfamily. One of the defining traits of harriers is that they hunt distinctly by soaring close to the ground and capturing their prey that usually varies from small rodents such as rats and mice to reptiles such as snakes and other small birds. Some of the most famous species of harriers include the African marsh harrier, the long-winged harrier, and the Papuan harrier.
Falcons are some of the most widespread raptors with a range that covers most of the regions of the world. Ornithologists estimate that there are approximately 40 distinct species of falcons spread across the world. Some of the most well-known falcon species are the Peregrine falcons and the gyrfalcon. The gyrfalcon attained international recognition because of its size as it is considered the largest of the falcons. The Peregrine falcon, on the other hand, is famous because of its exceptionally high dive speed that in some cases has exceeded 200 miles per hour.
The caracaras are raptors that usually feed by scavenging and the red-throated caracara being a well-known exception. Even though they belong to the Falconidae Family, they are relatively slower than their evolutionary relatives the Falcons.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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