Family

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This large family includes raptors (RAP-ters), birds of prey, of many shapes and sizes. One of the smallest species is the South American pearl kite that weighs less than 3.5 ounces (100 grams). At the other end is the Himalayan vulture weighing 26 pounds (12.5 kilograms). Raptors have keen eyesight and strong flight feathers.

Most of these raptors hunt during the day, and they kill the animals they eat. They can grab and kill prey with their curved talons (TAL-unz), claws, and tear meat with their hooked beaks. The Old World vultures from Europe, Asia, and Africa are the exception—they have weaker feet than the other birds in this family, and most of them are not able to kill the animals they eat.

Male and female raptors usually look alike, but the females are larger than the males. The birds' feathers are mostly gray, brown, or black, and some have lighter-colored chests, often with brown spots or streaks.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Hawks and eagles are found on all continents except Antarctica.

HABITAT

Sea eagles catch fish along coasts, but most raptors are land birds. They live in every kind of land habitat, including the tundra of the Far North, forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, mountains, and farmlands. They can also live in towns and cities with parks.

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