Raptor is a generic term for all birds of prey. Raptors are carnivorous birds with strong bills, large talons, and exceptional flight capabilities. There are more than 500 species of raptors found throughout the world, and different types of raptors can be found in every type of habitat. From frozen tundras and scorching deserts to dense forests and bustling cities, raptors are key apex predators in every environment.
Accipiters are relatively small, slender forest hawks with rounded wings and long tails that give them excellent flight maneuverability. Some of the most familiar accipiters in North America are the Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. Accipiters are some of the most common and numerous backyard hawks. They belong to the family Accipitridae, along with many other familiar raptors.
Buteos are larger hawks with broad wings and relatively short tails that soar over the open country while hunting. Familiar buteos are red-tailed hawks and ferruginous hawks. Buteos are some of the most popular raptors and can be found in urban or suburban areas, and occasionally even in backyards. Most of these types of birds of prey, however, are found in less populated areas where prey is more abundant.
Eagles are tremendously large soaring hawks in the family Accipitridae with exceptionally keen eyesight, very large, thick bills and powerful wings. Golden eagles and bald eagles are the most familiar species in North America, but there are many other eagle species worldwide. Eagles are often considered sacred to native tribes in countries around the world and are often worshipped in sacred ceremonies.
Raptors in the scientific family Falconidae with tapered, pointed wings built for speed and agile flight are called falcons. The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest animal with dive speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Other familiar falcons include the American kestrel, merlin and prairie falcon. Because of their speed and hunting prowess, falcons are some of the most favored birds for sport-hunting in falconry.
Owls are generally nocturnal birds of prey with upright posture and forward facing eyes set in a facial disk. Owls have keen vision, excellent hearing and nearly silent flight that make them superb night predators. The great horned owl and barn owl are widespread and familiar species, and the snowy owl is also well known, thanks to its popularity in the Harry Potter books and movies.