Birds of Prey (Raptors)

A bird of prey or raptor is a bird that hunts other animals for food. These birds possess sharp talons, curved beaks and excellent vision to help them find, capture and kill their prey. Owls, eagles, hawks and falcons are all raptors.

Owls are a group of raptors belong to the order Strigiformes. Most owls are nocturnal
(hunt at night) though a few are crepuscular (hunt at dawn and dusk) or even diurnal (hunt
during the day.) One of the most striking features of owls is their eyes. Owl eyes are very large, tubular and surrounded by tiny bones called scleral ossicles. Because of the shape of the eye itself as well as the presence of these bones, owls cannot move their eyes in their sockets; instead, owls turn their heads to see around them – up to 270 degrees! Owls also have spectacular hearing, aided by the fact that their ears are asymmetrically placed – meaning one ear is higher than the other. This feature allows owls to pinpoint exactly where a noise is coming from and makes them very effective hunters of small mammals, even when there is no light.

Eagles and hawks are raptors that belong to the same order, Accipitriformes. This order encompasses a large number of birds – ranging from tiny hawks no larger than a robin to eagles who hunt and kill mountain goats. All birds of this order are diurnal hunters, though their prey varies significantly across species, from insects and birds to reptiles and large mammals.

Falcons belong to the order Falconiformes. Falcons have thin tapered wings which allow them to fly at amazing speeds and change directions  quickly. In fact, a diving Peregrine Falcon can reach 200 mph while in a dive – making it the fastest creature on Earth! Falcons are also thought to be some of the most intelligent birds, comparable to crows and ravens.

If you find an injured or sick raptor: Assess  the bird from a safe distance before trying to handle it. Because of their talons, these birds can be difficult and dangerous to handle without proper training or equipment. If you feel comfortable catching the bird, use a large blanket or box to cover it. With a blanket, make sure to keep the bird’s head covered and its legs under control by holding them above the feet if possible. Once you have the bird safely contained, transport it to a licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible. If the bird is too large or dangerous to handle, call a licensed rehabilitator for help.

If you find a baby raptor on the ground without feathers: Look for a nest in the area. If you find the nest and can access it, return the baby to it; if you find the nest and cannot access it, you can make a replacement nest out of a plastic tub with holes cut in the bottom for drainage and some natural bedding (like dried grasses). Place the new nest in a secure, protected area as near to the original nest as possible. In either case, watch the baby from a safe distance to see if the parents return.  If the baby appears sick, injured or there are dead siblings or a dead parent in the area, bring the bird to a licensed rehabilitator.

If you find a healthy, feathered baby raptor on the ground: Young birds  naturally leave the nest before they are fully flighted; they are called “fledglings.” These birds may
spend time on the ground or on branches for several days before they are able to fly. This is a normal process, and these birds should not be rescued unless they are obviously sick, injured or there are dead siblings or a dead parent in the area. If the baby is in danger from a car, domestic animals or people, you can move the baby to a safer nearby area. These birds are still reliant on their parents for food and protection, so make sure the baby stays in an area where the parents will still be able to see and access it.


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