Birds of Prey

February 9, 2009 by  
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Birds of prey, or raptors, are birds which hunt other animals for food and are specially adapted to do so. Birds of prey include eagles, condors, kites, falcons, hawks, osprey, owls, vultures, buzzards and secretary birds.

When hunting, birds of prey use their highly adapted feet and talons to capture and kill prey. Hawks and owls will grab prey from the ground and then kill it by crushing it in their feet. Falcons use speed to effectively kill prey by plummeting down from high up and striking with its feet. Peregrine falcons reach speeds of up to 90 mph/145kph

Birds of prey are carnivorous and gain certain nutrients from the stomach contents of their prey. The entire prey animal is devoured by the bird of prey and later pellets of undigested matter are regurgitated. Falcons have a nook (notch) on their upper bill to break the neck of prey. Vultures have especially large, strong beaks to rip through hide and break bones.

Birds of prey have a highly developed sense of sight, far better than our own, and females are larger than the males (except for vultures and secretary birds) as they need to defend their nestlings.

The heaviest bird of prey is the Andean condor, it weighs in at 27 pounds (12 kg) which is a lot to carry in flight. The largest, however, are the eagles and vultures with wingspans of about 10 feet (3m). The most powerful bird of prey is the Harpy Eagle. The Harpy Eagle’s wingspan is 6.5 feet (2m) and their talons can be as long as 5 inches (12.5cm).

To truly experience birds of prey why not visit a local rehabilitation center and view them up close. Many places offer falconry demonstrations where you can see these wonderful birds in action. If you are interested in finding out what birds of prey are in your area consult a region specific field guide.

Any opportunity to see birds of prey in action will be an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience.

Crested Caracara (Polyborus plancus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Crested Caracara (Polyborus plancus) has a body length of between 19 to 23 inches and so is a relatively large bird. The wingspan is four-foot in length and the average bird weighs between the region of one and a half to three and a half pounds. The variance of weight is dependant on where the bird lives and what food is available to it.

The habitat that the Crested Caracaras prefers is open flat countryside, for instance river edges, ranches, savannas and pastures. At times you may find them in marshy areas and in forests. The Caracaras can be found in southwestern United States and Florida, South America and Central America. In the falcon group, the Crested Caracara is the most terrestrial bird and spends a large amount of its time on the ground.

The Caracara feeds normally on dead animals but if the opportunity comes up they will take the advantage of other food sources such as small mammals, amphibians, turtles, reptiles, fish, crab, eggs, worms, insects and birds that are nesting. The Crested Caracara will either take food from other birds or they will hunt for food off the ground.

When it comes to nesting season, the Crested Caracaras will build a large stick nest off the ground in palms, trees or cacti, or on the ground. The Caracaras is unusual in that way, as other members of the falcon family do not construct nests. The female will lay 2 to 3 eggs and will incubate them up to 28 to 32 days. Unlike most other birds, the young caracaras have a much longer fledging period and can take up to three months before they can fly as independent birds.

The scientific name, ‘Polyborus plancus’, given to the Crested Caracara comes from ‘poly’, which is the Greek word for variety or many; ‘boros’, which means gluttonous and that is easily seen by bird’s voracious appetite; and the Latin word ‘plancus’, which Aristotle used as a word for an eagle. The common name given to the bird, caracara, comes from the South Americans and is so called because of the call the bird makes. Other names the Crested Caracara has been given is the Caracara Eagle, Mexican Eagle, Audubon’s Caracara, King Buzzard and the Mexican Buzzard. The previous scientific name that was given to the bird was Caracara cheriway.