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What is a raptor?


A raptor is another word for a bird of prey. Birds of prey are characterized by the following traits:

  • They are carnivores.

  • They hunt using their feet, and specifically their talons to grab their prey. 

  • They have a curved or hooked beak for tearing food.

  • They are apex predators at the top of the food chain and necessary to maintain a healthy population of their prey species. 


What is an example of a bird of prey (raptor)?


A hawk, falcon, eagle, or owl.

What is a falcon?













What about vultures? Are they considered raptors?


The definition of a raptor as a predator would seem to exclude vultures from being categorized as a raptor. Vultures feed on carrion (dead animals) primarily which would classify them as scavengers. They have however been classifield as a raptor by scientists in the not so distant past.


Do birds of prey make good pets?


No, birds of prey are wild animals and even when bred in a captive environment still essentially retain their wild nature.  In addition, because they are predators, they must eat whole animals. Even if you feel up to the challenge, you must possess a permit as a falconer or a wildlife educator to keep a bird of prey as they are protected by U.S. and international law. To read about the laws in the United States and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, click here 

Why are birds of prey important to the environment?


They are at the top of the food chain, also called apex predators. They feed on other animals that typically breed in large numbers such as rodents, birds and even insects. Raptors are found all over the world with the exception of Antarctica. Without some regulation of these numbers, these animals will reproduce unchecked and cause an imbalance in the environment resulting in starvation and destruction of food sources.  Imagine if mice had no predators! Read more about how raptors control rodent populations here

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