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All About Raptors

The word "raptor" is derived from the Latin word "rapere," which means "to seize." Raptors are birds of prey that feed on live captured prey or on carrion. Typically, birds of prey have to kill things to make a living! Raptors may be diurnal, they feed during the daytime, or nocturnal, meaning they feed at nighttime.

Raptors have three characteristics setting them apart from all other birds:

  • Strong grasping feet with sharp talons used to seize prey
  • A hook-beak used to kill and rip apart prey
  • Predators with a diet that consists entirely of meat

Raptors are predatory animals and are often on top of the food chain in most places where they live. Thus, raptors are bellwethers of ecosystem health. If through close study we see that raptors in the wild are threatened, then we must conclude that other animals in that ecosystem are also at risk. For this reason, the study of raptors in the wild and in captivity is like a window into the lives of all living things in our environment.

Photo credits: David Bowers, Steve Franklin, Ted Adams, and William Liljeroos

Eagles

Photo by Irene Greenberg

Photo by Irene Greenberg

Hawks

Photo by Sue Ernisse

Photo by Sue Ernisse

Owls

Photo by Irene Greenberg

Photo by Irene Greenberg

Vultures

Photo by TRC Staff

Photo by TRC Staff

Osprey

Photo by Stephen Fisher

Photo by Stephen Fisher

Falcons

Photo by Rebecca Bredehoft

Photo by Rebecca Bredehoft

Caracara

Photo by Earl Orf

Photo by Earl Orf

Kites

Photo by Andy Morffew

Photo by Andy Morffew

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