Birds of prey are birds that hunt and feed on small animals or rodents. This essay offers an insight into their habitats, range or one-of-a-kind types, reproduction and their adaptations and function in the environment.
These birds live on almost each continent and in every habitat of the world that includes dense tropical jungles, sizzling deserts, rocky seacoasts, grassy plains, and world’s tallest mountains. Some have even encroached into cities of the world. They are well adapted to their habitats (BUTLER and GILLINGS 127).
The primary birds of prey include;
Owls-They have large round heads forward-facing eyes. They have extensive wings, short tails, light our bodies and are usually nocturnal and active at night and hence mainly hunt at night. The owl has eyes on the front of their heads and thus giving them a broad view of their environment.
Hawks- They are large in sizes and mainly active mainly during the day, and hence they hunt during the day. They are migratory depending on the time of the year. They exist in over 200 species.
Eagles-They is usually large with dark brown colors, long and broad wings and sometimes they can be spotted soaring high in the sky.
Harriers-They is medium-sized slim and with long legs. They live in the open areas hunting mainly in the marshes or meadows (Butler and Gillings 125).
Ospreys-They is large and eagle-like raptors that live and nest at the top of trees near oceans or lakes. They mainly feed on fish, and their beaks are well modified for catching fish from the water.
Accipiters – They are small-medium sized types of hawks with short round wings and long tails. They are fierce stealthy hunters feeding on birds and small mammals.
Falcons- They have large heads, notched beaks and dark eyes with distinct stripes below them which are called malar stripes. They are active fliers and divers and are among the most aerial and acrobatic of raptors.
Buteos -They have medium to large sized state bodies. They are mainly soaring hawks but sometimes fly low especially where their prey is likely to be found (Butler and Gillings 124).
Kites-They are medium-sized raptors with falcon like flight appearance, but their tails are distinctively different. They have long pointed wings and have graceful flights.
Vultures-They are large and are mainly scavengers.They can soar for hours looking for the carcass.
The females usually are more significant than the males. Their eggs are fertilized internally and are then laid by the female on a nest which is prepared by the female while the males bring the materials. The females then incubate the eggs, and the males carry food until the eggs hatch into chicks which they protect and feed until it is ready to fly on its own.
Adaptive Features for Their Feeding
All raptors have unique adaptive features that suit them for their predatory way of life. The primary adaptive characteristics of these birds include;
Sharp, Strong and Curved Beaks
The beaks of the raptors make them entirely different from the other birds. Their beaks have the same basic plan, curved at the tip with sharp cutting edges to help them tear apart flesh that will comfortably fit into its mouth. Their teeth are also much stronger and steady and hence easily pierces through the meat.The beaks have however evolved depending on the prey the bird eats, for example, the eagle has massive, powerful beaks for tearing muscle while the smaller raptors like the American kestrel have short breaks for eating small prey like insects and mice.
Sharp Talons/Powerful Legs The birds of prey have sharp claws known as talons that help them to capture and even kill or carry their prey (SARÀ 771.Their legs are also endowed with powerful muscles that make them grip the prey with ease and can also be used to strangle the victim to death. Their strong toes combined with the sharp claws act as powerful weapons helping them to catch, hold and to kill the prey.
The birds of prey have excellently strong vision ability and hence making them be able to see even a tiny animal on the ground from high up in the sky. The nocturnal types like the owls have a high concentration of rods on their retina hence sharp vision at night. Their eyes also have a bony protective structure above their eyes that protect their eyes when they pursue the prey into the bush.
They can fly swiftly enabling them to catch their prey. Their wings are modified for speedier flight and have strong muscles for flight (SARÀ 777).Their bodies are also streamlined hence enables them to experience the list resistance in the air during motion and therefore making them fly very fast and can quickly chase and catch their prey. The bones of these birds are hollow, and this reduces their weight and thus quicker flight.
The Importance of Raptors in the Environment
The birds of prey such as eagles or vultures usually occupy higher feeding levels in the ecosystem. It means therefore that they play very significant roles in the ecosystem and their absence will lead to severe consequences in that ecosystem which may lead to the even death of other organisms in the habitat. Their primary importance in the ecosystem includes;
Balancing the Ecosystem
They control the population of the rodents, insects and other small animals and hence restoring the ecosystem. This is very necessary for the continuity of the ecosystem since the increase of organisms such as rodents, other small birds or even insects if not regulated, may lead to competition in the habitat and hence leading to the death of other organisms in the habitat. (Thiollay and Colbert 56).
Biological Control of Pests
Feeding on the rodents prevents the rodents from destroying the farmer’s crops and hence helping the farmers in the biological control of pest and diseases. The presence of these birds in a habitat is therefore beneficial even to the farmers since their crops will not be destroyed by the rodents or other harmful insects like caterpillars since some of these birds also feed on insects.
These birds are susceptible to chemicals which they may take into their systems from the foods they eat (Thiollay and Colbert 44).A massive death of these birds in a habitat may indicate chemical contamination of the environment and hence necessitate appropriate measures to manage the disease. Some like the vultures feed primarily on carcasses of dead animals and therefore preventing any further spread of diseases the animal was carrying. These vultures, however, have acids in their digestive tracts that help in killing any disease-causing microorganism that might be a presence in the food and so feeding on dead carcasses does not affect them at all.
The birds of prey bear certain traits that are unique to them and cannot be found in other birds (SARÀ 768.This is because if their flesh-eating way of life. They have to catch, tear and even kill the prey and therefore calls for special modifications on their beaks, legs, claws, eyes, etc. These birds are present in different habitats in the continent, and they are essential components of the ecosystem.
Butler, Simon J., and Simon Gillings. “Quantifying the Effects of Habitat Structure on Prey Detectability and Accessibility to Farmland Birds.” Ibis 146 (2004): 123-130. Web.
Sarà, Maurizio. “Breeding Abundance of Threatened Raptors As Estimated From Occurrence Data.” Ibis 150.4 (2008): 766-778. Web.
Thiollay, J. M., and J. Colbert. “Comparative Foraging Adaptations of Small Raptors in a Dense African Savanna.” Ibis 132.1 (2008): 42-57. Web.