Joan Cartan-Hansen: In the world of birds, raptors, or birds of prey, are king.
Birds of prey are eagles and owls. They’re osprey and falcons and many others. As a group they’re called raptors.
You can identify raptors in several ways. They have a sharp, curved beak. They fly at amazing speed and raptors kill with their feet. Raptors have sharp curved talons or claws on their feet. They can capture and hold prey. They can snatch a fish right out of water or strike a bird in the air.
Their special beak and talons work kind of like a knife and fork, spearing and tearing food.
CHILD: What do they eat?
JOAN: Different raptors eat different things. Some eat insects. Others eat small mammals like chipmunks or rabbits or sometimes fish.
Birds of prey can fly very fast and almost silently. A peregrine falcon can dive at over 200 miles an hour.
Birds of prey have keen hearing. A great grey owl can hear a vole running 60 feet away, even if the vole is under 18 inches of snow. And birds of prey have extremely good eye sight. A falcon can see a grasshopper 300 feet away. That’s 3 to 8 times better than humans see.
CHILD: Hey, if I could do that I could see my lunch way down there.
JOAN: Raptors soar on air currents and then swoop down in search of food.
CHILD: Where do birds of prey live?
JOAN: You can finds Birds of Prey anywhere in the world except Antarctica.
One of the best places to find raptors is at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation area near Boise. The canyon walls here are perfect for raptors’ nests.
But raptors can live anywhere there is a food supply – even in big cities. Raptors can’t survive though, when their habitat is destroyed by fire or by humans or if its food supply disappears or is contaminated by chemicals in the environment.
Scientists around the world are working to save those birds of prey that are threatened with extinction.