What makes a rap­tor a rap­tor?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Our Wild World - Mike Toms

AThe term ‘rap­tor’, in­ter­change­able with ‘bird of prey’, refers to an avian species that hunts other higher ver­te­brates (rep­tiles, birds and mam­mals). The name is ap­plied to kites, vul­tures, har­ri­ers, hawks, buz­zards, fal­cons and ea­gles, plus the sec­re­tary bird (owls are not tech­ni­cally rap­tors). Not all of the species cov­ered by the term are re­lated tax­o­nom­i­cally, so in a sense ‘rap­tor’ de­scribes a cer­tain preda­tory life­style and the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics as­so­ci­ated with it – pre­dom­i­nantly the hooked beak and sharp talons. Glob­ally, there are some 350 species of di­ur­nal rap­tor, di­vided into roughly 80 gen­era within five fam­i­lies and two sub-fam­i­lies. Par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing is the way in which rap­tor char­ac­ter­is­tics have evolved in­de­pen­dently within dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies to pro­duce sim­i­lar-look­ing birds, un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of these fea­tures for hunt­ing.

Kestrels are medi­um­sized fal­cons and denizens of open coun­try. They watch for their vole prey from perches or while hov­er­ing.

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