All birds share some common traits, such as feathers, wings, laying eggs and being warm-blooded. However, there are certain characteristics that set the group of birds called raptors apart from other birds.
The word raptor comes from the Latin word “rapere” which mean to seize or plunder. Today, the word is used to describe a group of birds also known as birds of prey. There are around 450 species of raptors worldwide. In North America, we have about 30 common diurnal (active during the day) and 20 common nocturnal (active at night) raptors. Diurnal raptors include: eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, northern harriers, and osprey. Only owls are nocturnal raptors.
Raptors are specialized birds of prey with these adaptations:
What is Migration?
Twice a year, many raptors migrate. They spend the Spring and Summer in northern areas where they nest and rear young. During the winter, food supplies become scarce and the birds fly to more southern latitudes where food is more abundant. There they spend the Fall and Winter before returning to the North.
Many of the North American migrants will fly as far as Southern Mexico and parts of South America. Others find the southern United States suitable for over-wintering.
How do they migrate?
What Do They Eat?
Raptors are birds of prey that eat other animals. Their diet includes small mammals (mice, gophers, rabbits, etc.), fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Some will even chase after birds (including other raptors) and eat them. Many raptors will also eat insects they catch in mid-air.
Raptors are at the top of their food chain. When raptors eat prey that has been exposed to poisons, they can get sick and die.
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