Bird of prey

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Griffon vulture Gyps fulvus 1 Luc Viatour.jpg
Griffon vulture

Birds of prey, or raptors, include species of bird that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates that are large relative to the hunter. Additionally, they have keen eyesight for detecting food at a distance or during flight, strong feet equipped with talons for grasping or killing prey, and powerful, curved beaks for tearing flesh. [1] [2] [3] The term raptor is derived from the Latin word rapio , meaning to seize or take by force. [4] In addition to hunting live prey, most also eat carrion, at least occasionally, and vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source. [1]

Bird Warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates with wings, feathers and beaks

Birds, also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs, are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the world's most numerically-successful class of tetrapods, with approximately ten thousand living species, more than half of these being passerines, sometimes known as perching birds. Birds have wings which are more or less developed depending on the species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in flightless birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species of birds. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.

Bird vision

Vision is the most important sense for birds, since good eyesight is essential for safe flight, and this group has a number of adaptations which give visual acuity superior to that of other vertebrate groups; a pigeon has been described as "two eyes with wings". The avian eye resembles that of a reptile, with ciliary muscles that can change the shape of the lens rapidly and to a greater extent than in the mammals. Birds have the largest eyes relative to their size in the animal kingdom, and movement is consequently limited within the eye's bony socket. In addition to the two eyelids usually found in vertebrates, it is protected by a third transparent movable membrane. The eye's internal anatomy is similar to that of other vertebrates, but has a structure, the pecten oculi, unique to birds.

The beak, bill, and/or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young. The terms beak and rostrum are also used to refer to a similar mouth part in some ornithischians, pterosaurs, turtles, cetaceans, dicynodonts, anuran tadpoles, monotremes, sirens, pufferfish, billfishes and cephalopods.

Contents

Although the term bird of prey could theoretically be taken to include all birds that primarily consume animals, [3] ornithologists typically use the narrower definition followed in this page.[ citation needed ] Examples of animal-eating birds not encompassed by the ornithological definition include storks, herons, gulls, skuas, penguins, kookaburras, and shrikes, as well as the many songbirds that are primarily insectivorous.

Ornithology study of birds

Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds.

Stork family of birds

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. They belong to the family called Ciconiidae, and make up the order Ciconiiformes. Ciconiiformes previously included a number of other families, such as herons and ibises, but those families have been moved to other orders.

Common names

The common names for various birds of prey are based on structure, but many of the traditional names do not reflect the evolutionary relationships between the groups.

Variations in shape and size RaptorialSilhouettes.svg
Variations in shape and size
Eagle large carnivore bird

Eagle is the common name for many large birds of prey of the family Accipitridae. Eagles belong to several groups of genera, not all of which are closely related. Most of the 60 species of eagle are from Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just 14 species can be found—2 in North America, 9 in Central and South America, and 3 in Australia.

Booted eagle One of the closest living relatives of the Haasts eagle, along with the little eagle

The booted eagle is a medium-sized mostly migratory bird of prey with a wide distribution in the Palearctic and southern Asia, wintering in the tropics of Africa and Asia, with a small, disjunct breeding population in south-western Africa. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae.

Osprey One of the most widespread birds of prey in the world

The osprey or more specifically the western osprey — also called sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk — is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts.

Many of these English language group names originally referred to particular species encountered in Britain. As English-speaking people travelled further, the familiar names were applied to new birds with similar characteristics. Names that have generalised this way include: kite ( Milvus milvus ), sparrow-hawk or sparhawk ( Accipiter nisus ), goshawk ( Accipiter gentilis ), kestrel ( Falco tinninculus ), hobby ( Falco subbuteo ), harrier (simplified from "hen-harrier", Circus cyaneus ), buzzard ( Buteo buteo ).

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Red kite species of bird

The red kite is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers. The species currently breeds in the Western Palearctic region of Europe and northwest Africa, though it formerly also occurred in northern Iran. It is resident in the milder parts of its range in western Europe and northwest Africa, but birds from northeastern and central Europe winter further south and west, reaching south to Turkey. Vagrants have reached north to Finland and south to Israel, Libya and Gambia.

Some names have not generalised, and refer to single species (or groups of closely related (sub)species): merlin (Falco columbarius), osprey (Pandion haliaetus).

Merlin (bird) falcon of the north hemisphere

The merlin is a small species of falcon from the Northern Hemisphere, with numerous subspecies throughout North America and Eurasia. A bird of prey once known colloquially as a pigeon hawk in North America, the merlin breeds in the northern Holarctic; some migrate to subtropical and northern tropical regions in winter. Males typically have wingspans of 53–58 centimetres (21–23 in), with females being slightly larger. They are swift fliers and skilled hunters who specialize in preying on small birds in the size range of sparrows to quail. The merlin has for centuries been well regarded as a falconry bird. In recent decades merlin populations in North America have been significantly increasing, with some merlins becoming so well adapted to city life that they forgo migration.

Systematics

Historical classifications

The taxonomy of Carl Linnaeus grouped birds (class Aves) into orders, genera, and species, with no formal ranks between genus and order. He placed all birds of prey into a single order, Accipitres, subdividing this into four genera: Vultur (vultures), Falco (eagles, hawks, falcons, etc.), Strix (owls), and Lanius (shrikes). This approach was followed by subsequent authors such as Gmelin, Latham, and Turnton.

Carl Linnaeus Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist

Carl Linnaeus, also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné, was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name is rendered in Latin as Carolus Linnæus.

Vulture common name for several types of scavenging birds of prey

A vulture is a scavenging bird of prey. The two types of vultures are the New World vultures, including the Californian and Andean condors, and the Old World vultures, including the birds that are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains. Some traditional Old World vultures are not closely related to the others, which is why the vultures are to be subdivided into three taxa rather than two. New World vultures are found in North and South America; Old World vultures are found in Europe, Africa, and Asia, meaning that between the two groups, vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

<i>Strix</i> (genus) genus of birds

Strix is a genus of owls in the typical owl family (Strigidae), one of the two generally accepted living families of owls, with the other being the barn-owl (Tytonidae). Common names are earless owls or wood owls, though they are not the only owls without ear tufts, and "wood owl" is also used as a more generic name for forest-living owls. Neotropical birds in the genus Ciccaba are sometimes included in Strix.

Louis Pierre Veillot used additional ranks: order, tribe, family, genus, species. Birds of prey (order Accipitres) were divided into diurnal and nocturnal tribes; the owls remained monogeneric (family Ægolii, genus Strix), whilst the diurnal raptors were divided into three families: Vulturini, Gypaëti, and Accipitrini. [5]

Thus Veillot's families were similar to the Linnaean genera, with the difference that shrikes were no longer included amongst the birds of prey. In addition to the original Vultur and Falco (now reduced in scope), Veillot adopted four genera from Savigny: Phene, Haliæetus, Pandion, and Elanus. He also introduced five new genera of vultures (Gypagus, Catharista, Daptrius, Ibycter, Polyborus) [note 1] and eleven new genera of accipitrines (Aquila, Circaëtus, Circus, Buteo, Milvus, Ictinia, Physeta, Harpia, Spizaëtus, Asturina, Sparvius).

Modern systematics

Bald eagle Bald.eagle.closeup.arp-sh.750pix.jpg
Bald eagle

The order Accipitriformes is believed to have originated 44 million years ago when it split from the common ancestor of the secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) and the accipitrid species. [6] The phylogeny of Accipitriformes is complex and difficult to unravel. Widespread paraphylies were observed in many phylogenetic studies. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] More recent and detailed studies show similar results. [12] However, according to the findings of a 2014 study, the sister relationship between larger clades of Accipitriformes was well supported (e.g. relationship of Harpagus kites to buzzards and sea eagles and these latter two with Accipiter hawks are sister taxa of the clade containing Aquilinae and Harpiinae). [6]

The diurnal birds of prey are formally classified into five families of two orders.

These families were traditionally grouped together in a single order Falconiformes but are now split into two orders, the Falconiformes and Accipitriformes. The Cathartidae are sometimes placed separately in an enlarged stork family, Ciconiiformes, and may be raised to an order of their own, Cathartiiformes.

The secretary bird and/or osprey are sometimes listed as subfamilies of Acciptridae: Sagittariinae and Pandioninae, respectively.

Australia's letter-winged kite is a member of the family Accipitridae, although it is a nocturnal bird.

The nocturnal birds of prey – the owls – are classified separately as members of two extant families of the order Strigiformes:

Phylogeny

Below is a simplified phylogeny of Telluraves which is the clade where the birds of prey belong to along with passerines and several near-passerine lineages. [13] [14] [15] The orders in bold text are birds of prey orders; this is to show the polyphly of the group as well as their relationships to other birds.

Telluraves
Afroaves
Accipitrimorphae

Accipitriformes (hawks and relatives) Gyps fulvus -Basque Country-8 white background.jpg Maakotka (Aquila chrysaetos) by Jarkko Jarvinen white background.jpg

Cathartiformes (New World vultures) Black Vulture RWD2013A white background.jpg

Strigiformes (owls) Tyto alba -British Wildlife Centre, Surrey, England-8a (1) white background.jpg

Coraciimorphae (woodpeckers, rollers, hornbills, etc.) Halcyon smyrnensis in India (8277355382) white background.jpg

Australaves

Cariamiformes (seriemas) Seriema (Cariama cristata) white background.jpg

Eufalconimorphae

Falconiformes (falcons) Male Peregrine Falcon (7172188034) white background.jpg

Psittacopasserae (parrots and songbirds) Carrion crow 20090612 white background.jpg

Migration

Migratory behaviour evolved multiple times within accipitrid raptors.

An obliged point of transit of the migration of the birds of prey is the bottleneck-shaped Strait of Messina, Sicily, here seen from Dinnammare mount, Peloritani. Strait of Messina from Dinnammare.jpg
An obliged point of transit of the migration of the birds of prey is the bottleneck-shaped Strait of Messina, Sicily, here seen from Dinnammare mount, Peloritani.

The earliest event occurred nearly 14 to 12 million years ago. This result seems to be one of the oldest dates published so far in the case of birds of prey. [6] For example, a previous reconstruction of migratory behaviour in one Buteo clade [11] with a result of the origin of migration around 5 million years ago was also supported by that study.

Migratory species of raptors had a southern origin because it seems that all of the major lineages within Accipitridae had an origin to one of the biogeographic realms of the Southern Hemisphere. The appearance of migratory behaviour occurred in the tropics parallel with the range expansion of migratory species to temperate habitats. [6] Similar results of southern origin in other taxonomic groups can be found in the literature. [16] [17] [18]

Distribution and biogeographic history highly determine the origin of migration in birds of prey. Based on some comparative analyses, diet breadth also has an effect on the evolution of migratory behaviour in this group, [6] but its relevance needs further investigation. The evolution of migration in animals seems to be a complex and difficult topic with many unanswered questions.

A recent study discovered new connections between migration and the ecology, life history of raptors. A brief overview from abstract of the publish paper shows that "clutch size and hunting strategies have been proved to be the most important variables in shaping distribution areas, and also the geographic dissimilarities may mask important relationships between life history traits and migratory behaviours. The West Palearctic-Afrotropical and the North-South American migratory systems are fundamentally different from the East Palearctic-Indomalayan system, owing to the presence versus absence of ecological barriers." [19] Maximum entropy modelling can help in answering the question: why species winters at one location while the others are elsewhere. Temperature and precipitation related factors differ in the limitation of species distributions. "This suggests that the migratory behaviours differ among the three main migratory routes for these species" [19] which may have important consevational consequences in the protection of migratory raptors.

Sexual dimorphism

Shikra females have yellow eyes Shikra 3.jpg
Shikra females have yellow eyes

Raptors are known to display patterns of sexual dimorphism. It is commonly believed that the dimorphisms found in raptors occur due to sexual selection or environmental factors. In general, hypotheses in favor of ecological factors being the cause for sexual dimorphism in raptors are rejected. This is because the ecological model is less parsimonious, meaning that its explanation is more complex than that of the sexual selection model. Additionally, ecological models are much harder to test because a great deal of data is required. [20]

Dimorphisms can also be the product of intrasexual selection between males and females. It appears that both sexes of the species play a role in the sexual dimorphism within raptors; females tend to compete with other females to find good places to nest and attract males, and males competing with other males for adequate hunting ground so they appear as the most healthy mate. [21] It has also been proposed that sexual dimorphism is merely the product of disruptive selection, and is merely a stepping stone in the process of speciation, especially if the traits that define gender are independent across a species. Sexual dimorphism can be viewed as something that can accelerate the rate of speciation. [22]

In non-predatory birds, males are typically larger than females. However, in birds of prey, the opposite is the case. For instance, the kestrel is a type of falcon in which males are the primary providers, and the females are responsible for nurturing the young. In this species, the smaller the kestrels are, the less food is needed and thus, they can survive in environments that are harsher. This is particularly true in the male kestrels. It has become more energetically favorable for male kestrels to remain smaller than their female counterparts because smaller males have an agility advantage when it comes to defending the nest and hunting. Larger females are favored because they can incubate larger numbers of offspring, while also being able to breed a larger clutch size. [23]

See also

Notes

  1. Veillot included the caracaras (Daptrius, Ibycter, and Polyborus) in Vulturini, though it is now known that they are related to falcons.

Related Research Articles

Common buzzard Species of bird of prey

The common buzzard is a medium-to-large bird of prey which has a large range. A member of the genus Buteo, it is a member of the family Accipitridae. The species lives in most of Europe and extends its range into Asia, mainly western Russia. Over much of its range, it is a year-round resident. However, buzzards from the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere as well as those that breed in the eastern part of their range typically migrate south for the northern winter, many culminating their journey as far as South Africa. The common buzzard is an opportunistic predator that can take a wide variety of prey, but it feeds mostly on small mammals, especially rodents such as voles. It typically hunts from a perch. Like most accipitrid birds of prey, it builds a nest, typically in trees in this species, and is a devoted parent to a relatively small brood of young. The common buzzard appears to be the most common diurnal raptor in Europe, as estimates of its total global population run well into the millions.

Falcon genus of birds

Falcons are birds of prey in the genus Falco, which includes about 40 species. Falcons are widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica, though closely related raptors did occur there in the Eocene.

Hawk group of diurnal birds of prey

Hawks are a group of medium-sized diurnal birds of prey of the family Accipitridae. Hawks are widely distributed and vary greatly in size.

Falconidae family of birds

The falcons and caracaras are around 60 species of diurnal birds of prey that make up the family Falconidae. The family is divided into two subfamilies, Polyborinae, which includes the caracaras and forest falcons, and Falconinae, the falcons, kestrels and falconets. They differ from the eagles of Accipitridae, in that falcons kill with their beaks instead of their taloned feet. They have a "tooth" on the side of their beak for this purpose.

Harrier (bird) subfamily of birds of prey

A harrier is any of the several species of diurnal hawks sometimes placed in the Circinae sub-family of the Accipitridae family of birds of prey. Harriers characteristically hunt by flying low over open ground, feeding on small mammals, reptiles, or birds. The young of the species are sometimes referred to as ring-tail harriers. They are distinctive with long wings, a long narrow tail, the slow and low flight over grasslands and skull peculiarities. The harriers are thought to have diversified with the expansion of grasslands and the emergence of C4 grasses about 6 to 8 million years ago during the Late Miocene and Pliocene.

Accipitridae family of birds of prey

The Accipitridae, one of the four families within the order Accipitriformes, are a family of small to large birds with strongly hooked bills and variable morphology based on diet. They feed on a range of prey items from insects to medium-sized mammals, with a number feeding on carrion and a few feeding on fruit. The Accipitridae have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found on all the world's continents and a number of oceanic island groups. Some species are migratory.

Turkey vulture species of bird

The turkey vulture, also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard, and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow, is the most widespread of the New World vultures. One of three species in the genus Cathartes of the family Cathartidae, the turkey vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.

<i>Buteo</i> genus of birds

Buteo is a genus of medium to fairly large, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In the Old World, members of this genus are called "buzzards", but "hawk" is used in North America. As both terms are ambiguous, buteo is sometimes used instead, for example, by the Peregrine Fund.

Accipitriformes order of birds

The Accipitriformes are an order of birds that includes most of the diurnal birds of prey – including hawks, eagles, and vultures, but not falcons – about 217 species in all.

Rough-legged buzzard species of bird

The rough-legged buzzard, also called the rough-legged hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey. It is found in Arctic and Subarctic regions of North America and Eurasia during the breeding season and migrates south for the winter. It was traditionally also known as the rough-legged falcon in such works as John James Audubon's The Birds of America.

American kestrel species of the most common North American falcon

The American kestrel is the smallest and most common falcon in North America. It has a roughly two-to-one range in size over subspecies and sex, varying in size from about the weight of a blue jay to a mourning dove. It also ranges to South America, and is a well-established species that has evolved seventeen subspecies adapted to different environments and habitats throughout the Americas. It exhibits sexual dimorphism in size and plumage, although both sexes have a rufous back with noticeable barring. Its plumage is colorful and attractive, and juveniles are similar in plumage to adults.

Red-tailed hawk Species of bird

The red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey that breeds throughout most of North America, from the interior of Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies. It is one of the most common members within the genus of Buteo in North America or worldwide. The red-tailed hawk is one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the "chickenhawk", though it rarely preys on standard-sized chickens. The bird is sometimes also referred to as the red-tail for short, when the meaning is clear in context. Red-tailed hawks can acclimate to all the biomes within their range, occurring on the edges of non-ideal habitats such as dense forests and sandy deserts. The red-tailed hawk occupies a wide range of habitats and altitudes including deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests, agricultural fields and urban areas. Its latitudinal limits fall around the tree line in the Arctic and the species is absent from the high Arctic. It is legally protected in Canada, Mexico, and the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Buteoninae subfamily of birds

The Buteoninae are a subfamily of birds of prey which consists of medium to large, broad-winged species.

Elaninae subfamily of birds

An elanine kite is any of several small, lightly-built raptors with long, pointed wings.

Grey-bellied hawk bird: Grey-bellied Hawk

The grey-bellied hawk or grey-bellied goshawk is a fairly large and rare species of forest-dwelling South American bird of prey in the family Accipitridae.

Northern goshawk species of bird

The northern goshawk is a medium-large raptor in the family Accipitridae, which also includes other extant diurnal raptors, such as eagles, buzzards and harriers. As a species in the genus Accipiter, the goshawk is often considered a "true hawk". The scientific name is Latin; Accipiter is "hawk", from accipere, "to grasp", and gentilis is "noble" or "gentle" because in the Middle Ages only the nobility were permitted to fly goshawks for falconry.

Red-shouldered hawk species of bird

The red-shouldered hawk is a medium-sized hawk. Its breeding range spans eastern North America and along the coast of California and northern to northeastern-central Mexico. Red-shouldered hawks are permanent residents throughout most of their range, though northern birds do migrate, mostly to central Mexico. The main conservation threat to the widespread species is deforestation.

Hawkwatching

Hawkwatching is a mainly citizen science activity where experienced volunteers count migratory raptors in an effort to survey migratory numbers. Groups of hawkwatchers often congregate along well-known migratory routes, such as mountain ridges, coastlines, and land bridges, where raptors ride on updrafts created by the topography. Hawkwatches are often formally or informally organized under the guise of a non-profit organization, such as an Audubon chapter, state park, wildlife refuge or other important birding area. Some hawkwatches remain independent of any organizing structure and simply count hawks independently.

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Further reading