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Diurnal Birds of Prey: Falconiformes - Physical Characteristics

raptors beaks feet feathers

The birds in the order Falconiformes are called raptors (RAP-ters), or birds of prey, meaning they hunt animals for food. The raptors in the order Falconiformes include hawks, eagles, Old World vultures (from Africa, Asia, and Europe), falcons, and secretary birds. These raptors hunt during the day, and have beaks and feet that are made for hunting. Their beaks have sharp hooks that can tear meat. Their legs are generally short, and their feet have long, curved claws called talons (TAL-unz) that can grab and kill prey. These raptors have excellent eyesight, and can see about eight times better than humans.

Most of the birds in the Order Falconiformes have compact bodies, rounded heads, and short necks. Their sizes range from tiny falconets that weigh just over a pound (28 grams) to griffon vultures that can weigh as much as 26 pounds (12 kilograms). The secretary bird has the longest legs and stands 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. Female raptors are usually larger than the males.

Raptors' feathers are mostly gray, brown, or black. Some have tan or white chests, often with brown spots or streaks. These colors help camouflage the birds as they sneak up on prey. Many of them have bristles (stiff feathers) around their beaks that may protect their eyes while feeding or help them feel the prey they have caught. Most raptors have large flight feathers and are excellent fliers.


Diurnal Birds of Prey: Falconiformes - Diet [next]

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