Birds of Prey

April 20, 2004

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Types of Raptors


The word raptor is derived from "rapere", a Latin word, which means to seize or capture. More specifically, a raptor is a bird of prey. A bird of prey is a carnivore (meat eater) that kills and eats mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, rodents, and other birds.

Many birds hunt, kill, and eat meat, but they may not be a raptor. There are three distinguishing traits that make raptors different from other birds:

  • hooked beaks with sharp edges
  • feet with sharp, curved claws or talons
  • keen eyesight


Western Screech OwlsRaptors belong to two scientific orders, the Strigiformes and Falconiformes. The orders are divided into six groups with a total of about 446 species worldwide. They include:

  • secretary bird (1 specie in Africa)
  • falcons (63 species)
  • osprey (1 specie)
  • hawks and eagles (226 species)
  • vultures (7 species)
  • owls (148 species)
Raptors also fit into two basic groupings as hunters, they are either diurnal or nocturnal hunters.

(daytime) hunters
  • include the order Falconiformes
    such as hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, harriers, osprey, falcons, etc.

  • traits shared include the hooked beak, sharp talons, and keen vision; a fleshy cere at the base of the beak; a hind toe which opposes the other toes, and powerful flight


(nighttime) hunters

  • include the order Strigiformes, which includes all owls

  • traits shared include rounded heads with large, forward-directed eyes set in feathered disks, asymmetrical ear openings, and soft-edged flight feathers that allow silent fligh

TYPES OF RAPTORS - The raptors that live in or visit our State include owls, vultures, and hawks (falcons, eagles, kites, buteos, accipiters, harriers, osprey). Below is a list of the raptors representing each group.

Check out the different kinds of Raptors with these Raptor Silhouettes!


Turkey vulture

Buteos . . .

Broad-winged hawks*
Ferruginous hawk
Red-tailed hawk
Rough-legged hawk
Swainson's hawk


Falcons .
. .
American kestrel
Peregrine falcon Prairie falcon


Harriers . . .
Northern harrier

Accipiters . . . Cooper's hawk Northern goshawk
Sharp-shinned hawk

Eagles . . .
Bald eagle
Golden eagle

Kites . . .
White-tailed kite*

Osprey . . .


Barn owl
Barred owl
Burrowing owl
Flammulated owl
Great gray owl
Great horned owl
Long-eared owl
Northern pygmy owl
Northern saw-whet owl
Short-eared owl
Snowy owl
Western screech-owl

Note: * Uncommon or rarely seen in our region.

Many thanks to the Bureau of Land Management for their
partnership and assistance with the Birds of Prey information!

All of the information, activities, figures, and diagrams gathered
for this site were compiled from the following:

Bureau of Land ManagementBureau of Land ManagementU.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Lower Snake River District. 1998. Raptors In a Box Teacher Instruction Notebook. Boise, ID.

U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Lower Snake River District. 1998.
Raptors In a Box Traveling Trunk. Boise, ID.

Photographic Images were provided by the Bureau of Land Management
and other individuals as indicated.

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