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Birds of prey are fascinating birds. The beauty of each species, deep eyes, elegance of the silhouette, and for some of them, impressive size, make these birds the kings of the sky!

These raptors kill for feeding. Except the vultures which usually feed on carcasses and carrion, all the birds of prey, from the smallest to the largest, hunt and kill different types of living animals.   
They use different ways for hunting. They may hunt from exposed perch, or fly over open areas in order to detect preys, and then, they dive and catch them. But some of them also hunt by walking, searching for large insects or reptiles. Other species fly low from the ground and pursue small mammals, or capture preys such as birds while flying.
Some raptors’ species feed on fish, and hunt while flying low over the water surface, catching the fish with the talons.

Each species is adapted to habitat and hunting technique. Birds of prey usually are wonderful flyers. They are able to fly at high speed for hunting, but they are often seen soaring and circling in rising thermals, effortless and quiet, during several hours.
Their ability to fly allow them to perform wonderful courtship flight displays with alternated glides and flapping wings, rising, diving, turning and grasping their talons while flying. This is always an amazing show!
Birds of prey frequent numerous types of habitats, but the large raptors avoid the dense forests due to their large size.
They are usually silent, except during the breeding season when far-carrying calls are uttered by both mates.
Both sexes are often, but not always, similar in plumage, with female slightly larger than male. They usually nest in trees or on cliff ledges, and some of them on the ground. The young are fed by both parents at nest, and during several weeks after fledging.
They may migrate, according to the location. 
Vultures have different behaviours. They do not hunt, feeding almost exclusively on dead animals. Their keen sight allows them to detect the carcasses while flying high in the sky. They descend and approach carefully. There is a hierarchy between them, even if some disputes regularly occur. This is rather intimidation than attacks.
Each species is specialized and feeds on different parts of the carcass, from skin and tendons, to softer parts and muscles. The Bearded Vulture takes the bones and drops them from a height to break them and to eat the marrow.




Family Accipitridae - Description

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Family Accipitridae - List groups

List of the ten groups making this family:

1- Kites, Cuckoo-hawks, Honey-buzzards

2- Fish-eagles - Feeding behaviour

3- Old World Vultures

4- Snake-Eagles, Serpent-Eagles and Bateleur

5- Harrier-hawks - Harriers - Crane Hawk

6- Goshawks, Sparrowhawks, Hawks

7- Buzzards – Hawks – Buzzard-Eagle – Solitary Eagles

8- Hawks of genus Buteo

9- The four large eagles

10- Booted eagles

Family Pandionidae

Osprey – Pandion Haliaetus – Balbuzard pêcheur

Family Sagittariidae

Secretarybird – Sagittarius serpentarius – Messager sagittaire

Family Cathartidae

Family Cathartidae

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Family Falconidae

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Family Strigidae


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Family Tytonidae




Francisco José Hernández
Blog illustrations


They often nest in colonies, as on cliff ledges or at treetops, according to the species. Some colonies may gather several tens of pairs on the same cliff. 
Most of them are sedentary, but some species, such as the Egyptian Vulture, migrate southwards in winter.
They may perform some displays, but less spectacular than in eagles or falcons, due to their large size. The mates fly together, close to each other, and the pair-bonds last for the life.

Birds of prey are often persecuted by humans, or disturbed during the reproduction. They suffer collisions with electric wires, direct or indirect poisoning, and habitat loss in several parts of the world.
Numerous measures protect them today, as their habitat. They live in natural parks and reserves, where food sources and active protection help them to increase their populations.

New World vultures are classified in the Accipitriforme Order, Cathartidae Family. Old World vultures and different birds of prey such as eagles, buzzards, kites, hawks, harriers … are now in the Accipitridae Family , in the Accipitriforme Order.
Pandionidae has only one member which is the Osprey, like Sagittariidae with the Secretarybird. They belong to the Accipitriforme Order.
Falconidae Family includes falcons and caracaras, in the Falconiforme Order.

I invite you to discover some species by the way of the ID’s cards illustrated by several pictures. 

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Artworks by: Francisco José Hernández
His website: