Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh. In most cases, the females are considerably larger than the males. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere (meaning to seize or take by force) and may refer informally to all birds of prey, or specifically to the diurnal group. Because of their predatory lifestyle, often at the top of the food chain, they face distinct conservation concerns.
Many species of bird may be considered partly or exclusively predatory; however, in ornithology the term 'bird of prey' applies only to birds of the families listed below.
Taken literally the term "bird of prey" has a wide meaning that includes many birds that hunt and feed on animals and even birds that eat very small insects. In ornithology, and the definition used here, the term has a narrower meaning for birds that have very good eye sight for finding food, strong feet for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh. Most birds of prey also have strong curved talons for catching or killing prey. Bird of prey generally prey on vertebrates, which are usually quite large relative to the size of the bird. Most also eat carrion at least occasionally and the vultures and condors eat carrion as their main food source. By way of an examples, the narrower definition excludes storks and gulls, which can eat quite large fish, partly because these birds catch and kill prey entirely with their beaks, and similarly bird-eating skuas, fish-eating penguins, and vertebrate-eating kookaburras are excluded.
Using this cluster of anatomical and behavioural features, the species listed below are usually understood to be birds of prey in ornithology. They can be divided into species that hunt during daylight, the raptors, and into species that hunt during the night, the owls. The raptors and the owls are distantly related and are classified in separate orders; however, their evolution has been convergent, both groups of birds adapting to a predatory lifestyle.
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