DIY





Raptors: Birds of Prey

Raptors: These birds of prey include eagles, hawks and falcons. From their awesome aeronautics to their precise predatory instincts, these birds are the pinnacle of flight.

| August/September 2007

It’s only human to wish we could fly, and these amazing raptors, known as birds of prey, present the most amazing examples of aerial acrobatics.

Raptors: Birds of Prey

We are, after all, only human. That explains why we can’t fly like birds — and why we so want to. Certainly, like countless other earthbound homo sapiens since the dawn of our time, you’ve watched a bird make graceful circles high in the sky and thought, if only I could do that.

Chances are you weren’t watching just any bird, though. You were probably admiring one of the true masters of the sky — the group of agile, powerful avian hunters known as raptors, or birds of prey. Given their superior aerial abilities, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine not only any human, but any ordinary flying bird — a pigeon, a robin, whatever — also looking up from an earthly perch, thinking, if only I could do that.

Anatomy of a Raptor

“Raptor” isn’t a taxonomic classification, but a catchall term used to refer to eagles, hawks, falcons, kites and owls. Owls are nocturnal raptors, while the others are diurnal, or active during the day. All raptors are meat eaters. Their carnivorous nature doesn’t define them, however; most birds eat meat in some form or other. Rather than diet, it’s the raptors’ modus operandi and their anatomy that distinguish them. Beak to toe, raptors are built to seek out, chase down and gobble up the animal protein they need for sustenance.



The beginning of a victim’s end usually comes via the raptor’s sharp, curved claws: talons. Raptors possess strong legs and, on each foot, four powerful grasping toes, each tipped by a pointed talon. In most species, a single hind toe has the heaviest and longest talon while the other three toes face forward. Just before it strikes, a raptor swings both of its legs forward, almost to the horizontal, putting the full force of its hurtling body behind its outstretched talons.

A raptor’s grip on prey is sure and often deadly. Shorter-taloned raptors such as Cooper’s hawks may simply squeeze, rather than pierce, the life out of their victims. In any case, if the grab itself doesn’t kill, the job is finished by a sharp and distinctly pointed beak designed for cutting and tearing. On most raptors, the upper beak’s cutting edges aren’t straight, but instead have a slight S-shaped contour, like that of a scimitar. In falcons and some others, the S-curve is pronounced and forms a downward-pointing triangular “tooth” that fits into a notch on the lower beak. The tooth slips between a victim’s neck vertebrae to cleanly sever its spinal cord — instant death.






mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE







Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard