The recent release of the Roman conquest film, ‘The Eagle’, has got me thinking about the spectacular diversity of birds of prey, from speedy falcons to powerful sea-eagles and acrobatic goshawks. With many species demonstrating extravagant plumages, curious behaviours and a great variety of shapes and sizes, as well as brilliant aerial ability and cunning hunting strategies, these fantastic birds deserve to be put in the spotlight.
Having trawled through ARKive’s extensive collection of brilliant birds of prey images and profiles, I have highlighted some of my favourites for you to marvel at.
An inquisitive creature
With an inquisitive demeanour and an opportunistic diet, the striated caracara has a broad range of feeding habits that includes digging seabirds out of burrows and attacking weak livestock. This intelligent raptor also has the southernmost breeding distribution of any bird of prey.
With distinctive plumage and an evocative cry, the African fish-eagle is probably the most familiar bird of prey in Africa. This iconic species is armed with razor-sharp talons and a sharp, hooked beak, which are both essential for grasping onto its slippery fish prey.
A real conservation success story, the Mauritius kestrel was brought back from the brink of extinction. Numbering just 6 individuals in 1974, the Mauritius kestrel population is now estimated at between 800 and 1,000 individuals.
One of the largest of all birds of prey, Steller’s sea eagle is marked with a striking colouration of black and white, set against the contrasting yellow of its feet and the large, powerful bill, which is used for tearing the flesh of its fish prey and the carcasses of seals.
Otherwise known as the monkey-eating eagle, the Philippine eagle has developed a taste for monkeys, as well as flying lemurs, palm civets and flying squirrels. As the largest eagle species, it has the armoury to accommodate such a diet, with power, ferocious talons and a sharp bill.
A sociable one
Displaying marked sexual dimorphism, the rusty orange and blue female red-footed falcon is considerably brighter than the slate-grey male, although the male is no less attractive. This sociable creature is typically found in large numbers, roosting and nesting in their hundreds.
What is your favourite bird of prey on ARKive?
So there were my favourite birds of prey. But there is such spectacular diversity of these marvelous aerial predators that I have undoubtedly left out many equally magnificent birds of prey.
If you have a favourite bird of prey, why not share this with us by using the comments below.
Ben Morris, ARKive Species Text Author Intern