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Birds of Prey (Day Raptors)

Please choose an animal from the list below:

Family Accipitridae


Bald Eagle

Family Falconidae


Peregrine Falcon

Family Cathartidae


Andean Condor
California Condor

New World Vultures

Black Vulture
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
King Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-headed Vulture

Family Pandionidae


Osprey (Fish Hawk)

Family Sagittariidae

Secretary Birds

Secretary Bird

Order Falconiformes

The order Falconiformes is a medium-sized order containing some of the most majestic birds(ie. bald eagle) and some of the most repulsive birds (ie. turkey vulture) in the entire class. Grouped together with owls (order Strigiformes), they are known as birds of prey, with owls being the nocturnal birds of prey and Falconiformes being the diurnal birds of prey.

Order Falconiformes is composed strictly of carnivores, and as such their bodies are designed strictly for killing. They have powerful, curved talons with an opposable hind toe ideal for snatching prey from the ground, water, or air. The beak is often curved and ideal for tearing flesh. The eyesight is keen, perhaps being the best in the animal kingdom. Most day raptors, as Falconiformes are sometimes called, locate their prey from the sky and dive down in amazing displays of ariel agility to capture it. However, the secretary bird is unique in that it hunts its prey, mainly snakes, on land, stalking them through the grasslands. Not all Falconiformes prey on live animals: vultures are the scavengers of the skies, feeding on the dead and diseased. As such, their bodies are designed for this type of lifestyle, with the head being bald so that entrails can slide off instead of getting caught in the feathers.

Falconiformes can be found worldwide, with the exception of Antarctica. The hawks, eagles, Old World Vultures and falcons can be found on most continents, as can the osprey, which is one of the most widespread birds in the world. The New World vultures and condors are limited to North and South America, and the secretary bird is native to Africa.M

Day raptors range greatly in size, from the sparrowhawks, with a length of 11-15 in (27.5-37.5 cm) to the South American harpy eagle, with a wingspan of 10 ft (3 m).

There is a fair amount of confusion in classifying this order of birds. There is often considered to be five families, but some experts place the osprey in the same order as the hawks and eagles. To add to the confusion, scientists argue that the New World vultures, which are placed in the order Falconiformes, are actually more closely related to the storks and herons (order Ciconiiformes) than to the Old World vultures and hawks and eagles, and are placed in this order only because of their resemblance to the Old World vultures! At any rate, I have decided to go for the five-family approach. There are approx. 280 species in this order:

Accipitridae (hawks, eagles, Old World vultures, harriers) approx. 208 spp
Falconidae (falcons, caracaras, gyrfalcons) approx. 58 spp
Cathartidae (New World vultures: condors, turkey vultures, king vultures, etc) 7spp
Pandionidae (ospreys) 1 spp
Sagittariidae (secretary birds) 1 spp