I Love Birds Of Prey! - Pictures Of Birds
Me And My Bird
Here's me holding one bird of prey, a Kestrel (it's a type of Falcon, if you don't know).
Well, it's not really mine but this was me on holiday a couple of years ago when we visited a place called Clovelly, in North Devon and had a "Bird of Prey Experience".
You may have noticed that it's the same photo I use on my profile.
As you may have guessed, I've always had a thing about birds of prey, so I thought I'd write a lens about them and include some birds of prey pictures along the way.
Now I'm no expert.
I'm really more the couch potato type, who would rather watch wildlife on TV than 'get out there' and see it first hand (shame on me).
However, whenever I have had the opportunity to see these birds, they amaze me.
I'll try to put in some proper facts about them, but if there are any real experts out there, then please feel free to correct me in the comments!
All photos mine, unless stated otherwise (Creative Commons non-commercial share-alike international license 4.0).
A hardcover book for falconry beginners as well as those already 'into' it.
A Type Of Falcon
Let's have a closer look at this little one then.
This bird is a Kestrel, which is actually a kind of Falcon.
However, unlike the Peregrin, it hovers above the land waiting to drop on small prey, such as mice and voles.
He is incredibly light; just a few grams.
So light in fact, that when I was holding him, most of the weight was from the glove: I hardly felt his presence at all and had to keep checking he was still there!
This is the one you may have seen by the side of the motorway flapping its wings madly, but staying absolutely still.
The amazing thing is, that if it does move (say it's being blown about by the wind) then its body moves, but its head stays where it is.
While I was holding him, the lady showed us how this works by getting his attention and then getting me to move him up, down and around: all the while he kept his head still focussed on her, while his body and neck move to keep it that way.
He has a load more vertebrae in his neck to enable him to do that.
and if you want to see birds of prey up close, you may need these binoculars
...or you could just visit my garden, but please ask first!
The common or garden Barn Owl
This is a Barn Owl.
Quite common in the UK; beautiful, perhaps a bit thick (IMO), but certainly lovable.
They are amazing and SILENT hunters (hmm, I'm shouting to let you know that they are quiet...?)
We saw this one as part of the same "bird of prey experience" at Clovelly.
The thing I found out was how tiny their heads are!
Sure they look massive, but most of that is just feathers.
Our guide got us to gently put a finger in through those feathers until we could feel its skull.
I'm not kidding that my forefinger went into the feathers right up to the middle knuckle.
So, tiny skull; massive eyes; feathers that make it ABSOLUTELY SILENT (see, I did it again).
Someone can correct me on this, but I believe that the rounder face indicates that this one is a male; whereas the female has the classic "heart" shape most people will associate with Barn Owls.
Owls Part 2
After the day at Clovelly, I was all made up for that holiday.
So just imagine my surprise when just a couple of days after, we went to Tamar Otter and Owl centre and I got picked to hold this one!
The sad thing is that I can't even remember what type of owl he was (shame on me again!).
I have a feeling that he is an Eagle Owl, although it's possible that he may be a Long Eared Owl: perhaps someone can confirm/deny in the comments?
This one is much bigger and heavier than the others but still feeds mainly on small mammals.
Thanks to @peterduck I now believe that this is the Eurasian (or European) Eagle Owl.
Please see the comments for details!
**Further Update - Breaking News**
Thanks to Tali (the owner of the beautiful Kestrel above), I can now confirm that this owl is in fact a Bengal Eagle Owl, not the European. - See her comment below!
Sadly, I haven't got a picture of me holding a Peregrine Falcon, as I have never done that (to the right is a picture of a peregrine falcon by Carl Mueller).
However, I wanted to put a special section in here because these are my absolute favourite bird of prey.
This is a bird that can see for miles (literally) and approaches the speed of sound when it drops out of the sky to catch its prey.
...and drop they do!
I once saw a falconry display where they showed off a Peregrine.
It flew up and up and up ...until it couldn't be seen at all: not even a dot in the sky.
The man then did his thing with a small bit of bait on a lead.
He moved it round and round like a lasso, called to the bird and it dropped like a stone from that height to catch it in mid air! Amazing!
Well received book for falconry enthusiasts, written from a UK viewpoint.
As one of the reviews points out about some other books, trapping a bird for falconry is illegal in the UK.
Did You Know?
Some interesting facts about birds of prey that you may not have known!
Here's some interesting little facts you may, or may not know about birds of prey:
- They are called birds of prey, not "birds of pray"
- It's an easy mistake to make and an easy typo to type.
These birds eat small "prey" animals such as mice, voles and even other birds.
- The phrase "Fed Up" comes from falconry.
Birds of prey have a hunting weight, which is where they are 'lean' and hungry.
However, if you give them a good meal then they are "Fed Up" as their tummies are full and they lose interest in taking part in your silly falconry display!
- The "Stoop" is the term for the point when a bird of prey drops out of the sky to catch its prey.
If you want to find out more about birds of prey from real experts then a very good place to go is the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) - see the links at the bottom of this article.
I Saw A Kestrel!
I was driving up the A3 as usual last week when I spotted a kestrel.
It was just going from flying into the transition to the hovering position.
Great to see!
General guide to falconry with variety of birds described.
My Family: Hobby In The Garden!
I got home last night to be greeted by excitement from my wife and kids:
They had seen a Hobby in the back garden (example pictured right)!
Now, if you knew our house you might be amazed, because our back garden is tiny: there are only a few feet between the window at the back of the house, and the fence.
It was great to have this opportunity to see a bird like this up close, particularly when we checked and realised that it only comes to the UK in the Summer - so it was early too.
My only regret is that I wasn't home from work earlier to see it myself!
See also Hobby (bird) on Wikipedia and the RSPB Hobby page (see link to RSPB website below) for more info.
Photo: "Faucon Hobereau" by Polo7
Want To Know More?
Here are some other sites you may find interesting.
- The RSPB
Main Portal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Excellent resource for all things bird. They also sell alternative gifts to help the cause.
- Falcons on the RSPB Website
Describes various types of Falcon (Peregrines being my favourite)
- Things to do in Clovelly | Clovelly
I couldn't find a separate website for Tali's Birds of Prey. If you want to have a similar experience to mine, here's a link to the Visit Clovelly site. If you look down the page, you can find an option "Get to know owls and birds of prey"
- The Welsh Hawking Centre
On a holiday to South Wales, we went to this place (spot a bit of a theme developing here?). They have over 200 birds of prey, with everything from the tiny American Kestrel, through to the massive Bald Eagle and Golden Eagles.
- The Hawk Conservancy Trust
This is an award winning visitor attraction and registered charity. They have the best displays I have ever seen. If you're in the vicinity of Andover then I highly recommend a visit.
Do you like birds of prey?
Do you hate them?
Do you agree with me that Falcons are awesome?
Do you have any corrections for my lens?
Leave a comment to let me know!
© 2012 Tim Bader