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10 Amazing Predatory Birds in Action

Updated on April 12, 2017

Birds of Prey

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All of us have heard about or seen some predatory birds. These are the birds of prey that hunt and feed on other animals. They include birds that eat small insects. They are also called Raptors.

Typically, they have very good eyesight which helps them to find food. Their feet or curved talons are also strong to catch, kill or hold the prey. In many cases, they have curved beaks which enable them to tear the flesh. They generally prey on vertebrates and many eat carrion.

Based on their structures they have been classified and have common names even. Ten predatory birds falling in osprey, eagles, falcons, vultures and owls categories and others have been showcased in this Hub along with some interesting information about their habitat, appearance and behaviour.

$1. Osprey

Pandion haliaetus
Pandion haliaetus | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
In flight with prey
In flight with prey | Source

Habitat: As the second most widely distributed species among the Raptors, Ospreys are found in temperate and tropical regions in all continents except Antarctica. They are found around rivers, freshwater lakes and ponds. They build stick nests which are normally larger in size and are found on top of high living or dead trees, poles and channel markers.

Appearance: They are large Raptors and can reach more than 60 cm (24 in) length and 180 cm (71 in) across wings. They are brown on the upper parts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts. They also exhibit a broad brown stripe passing around the eyes.

Behaviour: Ospreys almost exclusively diet on live fish and have the capability to dive into water to catch them. Among Raptors like owls, ospreys have reversible outer toes and undersides of the toes are covered with small spines. This helps them to grasp their prey, slippery fish, with two toes in front and two behind.

They exhibit greater joint flexibility which equips them to fly even towards the bright lights. While flying they can be recognised by the M-shaped twist in their wings.

They are also known as sea hawks or fish eagles because of almost exclusive fish eating. The osprey was declared a provincial bird of Nova Scotia, Canada in 1994.

#2. Secretary Bird

Sagittarius serpentarius
Sagittarius serpentarius | Source
In Flight
In Flight | Source
Immature Secretary Bird with a prey
Immature Secretary Bird with a prey | Source

Habitat: They have widespread distribution covering most of the Sub-Saharan Africa. They are nomadic in search for food and adjustment to environmental changes. They prefer grasslands and open savanna, but do inhabit in farmlands growing cereals. They spend most of the daytime on the ground but return to their roosting places on Acacia trees for spending the night.

Appearance: It has a peculiar eagle-like head with hooked bill, but looks quite high due to crane-like legs. Seen from a distance and especially during flight it looks like a crane but it has a strange arrangement of feathers on the back of its neck. Its name is considered to be linked with the appearances of 18th century old-fashioned male secretaries who used to have quill pens tucked behind their ears. It has black belly, thighs and flight feathers though other body feathers are grey.

Behaviour: Secretary bird can fly, but it prefers to stay and move on land. It is also called Marching Eagle as it has the capability of moving around 20 to 30 kms a day on foot during hunting for food. It feeds itself on small animals like snakes, lizards, squirrels and large insects. It has powerful legs, used for crushing its prey. which it swallows whole.

It is a threatened bird classified as vulnerable.

Watch Secretary Bird in Action

#3. Steller's Sea Eagle

Haliaeetus pelagicus
Haliaeetus pelagicus | Source
Sea the wing span
Sea the wing span | Source
In flight with prey
In flight with prey | Source

Habitat: They are native to eastern Russia and breed in the sea of Okhotsk and Kamchatka Peninsula. The majority of these migrate to the Japanese islands during winter. They have their large and bulky nests on trees near coastal areas, lakes and rivers.

Appearance: They are dark brown to black over the major part of their bodies, but have a dramatic appearance because of white tail, thighs, shoulders and forehead. The eyes, strongly arched bill and the feet of the adult are yellow in colour. They are large Raptors with length ranging between 84 to 95 cm and the wing span between 1.95 to 2.5 m. Their females are larger in size.

Behaviour: Steller's Sea Eagles prey on fish and water birds, both as hunters and scavengers. They also steal from others while in groups. Salmon and trout are the favourite in river habitat.

It is a threatened bird, classified as vulnerable. It is because of the habitat loss in Russia and depletion of salmon stocks. They are now protected, but their feathers used to be highly prized earlier.

It is named after Georg Wilhem Stellar, a German naturalist.

#4. American Kestrel

Falco sparverius
Falco sparverius | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
Holding prey
Holding prey | Source

Habitat: It is the only kestrel which is commonly found in the Americas. It is distributed from northern Canada to central Alaska and to the most parts of South America. Some of these birds migrate to more temperate or tropical regions during winter. Their habitat ranges from deserts and grasslands to meadows and semi-open regions.

Appearance: American Kestrels are one of the most colourful birds of prey and the smallest falcon in North America. They have short legs and toes and range from 12 to 27 cm in length with pointed wings. The sexes can be differentiated more by the colour of the plumage than by the size. Male have slate-blue wings, but the wings of the females are reddish brown. Their pale faces have pairs of black slashes looking like moustaches.

Behaviour: They largely feed on small animals like grasshoppers, dragonflies, lizard and mice. Sometimes they eat small birds also. They wait for the prey to come nearer and keep perching on trees and overhead power lines. They can, however, chase insects in the air for hunting.

They are also known as sparrow hawks and are not a threatened species.

#5. Eurasian Eagle-owl

Bubo bubo
Bubo bubo | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
Catching prey in flight
Catching prey in flight | Source

Habitat: Eurasian Eagle-owls have wide range of habitats and are found across much of Europe as well as through Asia, Middle East and Russia. The range extends to China, Korea and Japan even. They occupy a wide variety of habitat ranging from northern coniferous forests to grasslands and warm forests. Rocky areas with cliffs and ravine often attract them. They are also found up to 2000 meters elevation in Europe and up to 4500 meters in Central Asia and Himalayas.

Appearance: It is a very large and heavy species with a wingspan up to two meters. It is a distinctive species because of the barrel-shaped body, peculiar ear-tufts, which are more upright in the case of males, powerful feathered talons and orange eyes. However, appearance is variable in size and colouration among sub-species.

Behaviour: Like other owl species they are also nocturnal in activity. They prefer to prey small mammals like rats and rabbits. Other potential preys are birds like woodpeckers or ducks, geese and seabirds in coastal areas. They are ready to pick up their prey from dusk to dawn, on the ground or even in full flight. They make noiseless flight and kill their prey quickly using their powerful talons.

They are considered to be one of the largest owls in the world.

#6. Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus
Falco peregrinus | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
Holding prey
Holding prey | Source

Habitat: Peregrine Falcon is one of the most widespread birds of prey which can be found on all continents except Antarctica and New Zealand. Their range of habitat varies from cold tundra region to hot deserts and tropical areas. They are also found in the mountains, forests and oceanic islands. They migrate in winters and are also known as wanderers.

Appearance: They have dark-brown backs and blue-grey wings. Their underparts are buff coloured with brown spots. Facial skin and legs vary from yellow to orange. Their bluish beaks are hooked and like other Raptors their talons are strong. Females are up to 20% larger than their male counterparts.

Behaviour: They are the fastest species in the bird and prey on birds like songbirds and ducks including bats midnight. They also feed on mammals like rodents and rabbits. They have the capability to make swift dives to catch their prey mid air even at the speed of 250 km per hour.

#7. King Vulture

Sarcoramphus papa
Sarcoramphus papa | Source
In Flight
In Flight | Source
Enjoying Prey
Enjoying Prey | Source

Habitat: King vultures are found in Central and South America to Northern Argentina and Trinidad. They prefer inhabiting in tropical lowland forests and in nearby grasslands and savannas. Marshy places in forests and swamps are also the spots to locate them. They perch high up on canopy trees.

Appearance: They are really colourful birds and can be easily distinguished from other vultures. They are creamy white large birds with dark grey to black tail-feathers. There are no feathers on neck and head, but have red and purple shade on skin over the head. They have vivid orange colour on the neck and the throats are yellow. The orange and black bill has bright red-orange skin drooping.

Behaviour: They are scavengers and being more powerful than other vultures they force their way. They keep gliding using the air current and saving energy. They utilise this time to scan corpses of dead animals on the ground. Being powerful they feast on the carcasses of animals killed by others.

Enjoy Actions of the King Vulture

#8. Barn Owl

Tyto alba
Tyto alba | Source
In Flight
In Flight | Source
In flight with prey
In flight with prey | Source

Habitat: Barn owls are one of the most widespread of all birds and are found in Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas and Australasia, except polar and desert areas. They prefer tree holes, ruined and neglected buildings and even farm buildings for nesting and roosting. They also like open agricultural farms and grasslands which provide large operational areas for their hunting.

Appearance: They have peculiar heart-shaped facial disc, which is pale in colour and eyes are black. Upper parts are golden grey and the underparts are pure white. Their heads are rounded smoothly and are without ear tufts. However, their legs are long, but they are medium-sized.

Behaviour: Like other owls they are nocturnal in their activities, but are active by evening or early morning. They feed on small rodents, frogs and mice. With asymmetrically placed ears, they have the acute hearing power and are very effective in controlling the rodent pests.

#9. Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos
Aquila chrysaetos | Source
In Flight
In Flight | Source
Flying with prey
Flying with prey | Source

Habitat: This most widely distributed species of eagle is best known in the northern hemisphere. It is available in North America, Eurasia and parts of North Africa. Some of these migrate, Alaskan and Canadian eagles fly south in the fall. They prefer open country around mountains, cliffs and hills.

Appearance: It is a huge bird of prey with broad wings and long tail. They are dark brown with lighter golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks. Males and females are similar in appearance.

Behaviour: They are monogamous, maintain their territory and use their large nests for many years. They either keep sitting on a tree for a lookout or search for their prey from very high while flying. They are very powerful and use their speed while ambushing their prey. They prefer rabbits, rodents, young foxes and squirrels. Fish, birds and reptiles are also eaten.

#10. Swainson's Hawk

Buteo swainsoni
Buteo swainsoni | Source
In flight
In flight | Source
With a catch
With a catch | Source

Habitat: This medium-sized Raptor inhabits in the western half of North America in the summer and spring, but winters in eastern Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil. It is the longest migrant of any North American Raptor. It lives on the open plains, agricultural areas and grasslands.

Appearance: They are medium-sized hawks with broad wings and short tails. They have reddish-brown chest and brown or grey upper-parts, but are light-bellied. Normally, males have grey heads, but females have brown heads. The bill is short and hooked.

Behaviour: They are social Raptors and are seen in groups during non-breeding period. They primarily eat insects like grasshoppers, crickets and locust during their non-breeding periods, but during their breeding periods, they hunt birds, reptiles, mice and squirrels.

Named after a British naturalist, William Swainson, they are also called Grasshoppers or Locust Hawks because of their fondness for locust and grasshoppers.

Your acquaintance with predatory birds

Which of these predatory birds you are most familiar with?

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  • tsmog profile image

    Tim Mitchell 3 years ago from Escondido, CA

    Wonderful article srsddn! I found great enjoyment reading while I learned too. Thank you for presenting this very informative article of an interest I have. A favorite, Osprey, used to fly overhead where I worked. Amazing! I live only fifteen miles from the San Diego Wild Animal park where shows with these amazing creatures of nature demonstrate their prowess while those of the park share with all ages. Highly recommended and well written read.

    tim

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    tim, I am glad you enjoyed reading my Hub. Your interest in Osprey and other birds of prey might have prompted you to have a close look on some of these. It is always good to learn more and more about creations of nature. Thanks for stopping by and your encouragement. Have a nice time!

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

    I love anything to do with nature and this hub was brilliant. voting up and sharing for sure. Also wishing you a great day.

    Eddy.

  • sallybea profile image

    Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

    grsddn,

    I am familiar with several of these birds but unfortunately I was only able to select on in your poll. The barn owls fly up and down the fields close to here with farmers putting up nest boxes in appropriate places. They really are wonderful to watch. Very beautiful Hub. Voted up and interesting.

    Sally

  • The Examiner-1 profile image

    The Examiner-1 3 years ago

    This was very impressive srsddn. I have only seen one raptor close up. In one house I was going to my bird feeders and a Red-tailed Hawk landed on my garage roof, after a few minutes it took off.

    It is well-known that Barn Owls used to be killed for being in barns - unknown that they ate the rodents and saved the farmers time and money.

    Voted up, shared and Pinned.

    Kevin

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Eddy, Love for nature triggers more and more exploration. I am glad you love nature and liked my Hub. Thanks for all your support and sharing. Have a nice time!

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Sally, I am glad you are familiar with birds of prey. Watching barn owls in action must be an amazing experience. Thanks for stopping by and your continued support. Have a nice day!

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Kevin, watching red-tail hawk at roof top must be quite thrilling. I wish it could have been for more time. Barn owls are mysterious and of great interest to all of us. Thanks for visiting, support and have a nice time.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    These birds of prey are so majestic and fearless looking. Interesting and useful information, Sukhdev. I had no idea about some of them.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Rajan, the world is so full of amazing creatures. God has empowered some to overpower others and to create a balance in the process. Thanks for visiting. I am glad you came to know about a few new birds. Have a nice time!

  • The Examiner-1 profile image

    The Examiner-1 3 years ago

    srsddn,

    The hawk just sat there for a few minutes. I think that it was watching the birds at the feeders but did not do anything probably because I was out there.

    Kevin

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Kevin, while it might be watching the activities of the birds, it might also be observing your activities. Your presence might be a deterrent. Well, it is nice to know that hawk did all this with 'hawkish' eyes. Have a nice week ahead!

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    The photographs are stunning and I have been closest to the barn owl. An informative and very interesting hub.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Thanks for stopping by Devika. Barn owls are really fantastic creatures. They attract everybody and are really mysterious. I am glad you liked information about predatory birds. Have a nice time.

  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    One can never ignore a beautiful raptor, and you have covered a good many of them. Nice work.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 2 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Thanks, Deb. I am glad you like raptors. Have a nice day!

  • sukkran profile image

    Mohideen Basha 2 years ago from TRICHY, TAMIL NADU, INDIA.

    it is a great work srsddn. your picture collection and details are really amazing. very much enjoyed my visit. thanks

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 2 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Thanks, Sukkran. I am glad you liked the predatory birds in my Hub. Have a nice time.

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