10 Amazing Predatory Birds in Action
Birds of Prey
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.