family includes hawks, kites, Old World vultures, harriers,
eagles, and buzzards. It is the largest family in the
Falconiforme order. Just like our families, where brothers and
sisters look like their parents in different ways (hair and eye
color, height), the birds of prey in the Accipitridae family
have characteristics that are the same. These birds are put in
the Accipitridae family because they all:
Have a raised ridge above their eyes that make
them look mean.
Are carnivorous. (meat eaters)
There are a lot
of differences between the Accipitors, too. Since there are a
lot of different birds in the family, they like to live in lots
of different places and eat lots of different things. Most of
them build stick nests to live in. They migrate from the
nesting place to somewhere else where they can find food when
it’s colder. Then they come back to the nesting place to
breed. The nests become larger and larger because the birds add
to them each year. “A few notable nests have been a bald
eagle’s nest which was 86 square feet… across the top. Another
was 10 feet … across and 16 ½ feet high.” [Encyclopedia of
Man is the enemy of Accipitors. Farmers would
shoot these birds because they thought they were
“chicken buzzards”, birds who would kill the farmer’s
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are usually kept inside, so this isn’t a danger anymore.
Farmers also put pesticides on their crops. The pesticides
go into the air and on the farmer’s fields. When
a small bird eats a worm from that field, the pesticide gets
into the bird. Pesticides don’t go away. They stay inside that
small bird. It keeps eating the worms and the pesticides keep
building up. A hawk swoops down and eats the bird. Now the
hawk has pesticides from the air and the ones from the eaten
bird. Pesticides kill a lot of birds of prey like that.
Sometimes it even makes females lay eggs that have thin shells.
The eggs break before they hatch so the numbers of birds
Hawks are usually two feet
long and have short, hooked
beaks that they use to kill their
prey. Their long legs have lots of
feathers on them.
nests are usually put where predators won’t bother them, but they
can still see their prey below. They will eat their prey in one gulp
unless it is really big and then they will pull off pieces instead.
Hawks like woodland areas. Nests are usually made of sticks and
filled with leaves and grass to soften it.
An interesting thing about hawks is
that they have binocular
monocular vision. This means that
they can see with both eyes at the same time (binocular) so that
they can see distances. They can also focus both eyes
separately and at the same time, seeing what is next to them on
either side. (monocular) This makes it possible for them to see
in almost all directions at the same time.
These are the hawks
Kites are birds of prey that live in
warm, tropical areas. Their nests are mostly in trees. When
they fly, they are known for how well they soar and circle.
They have very small legs and feet that are not strong. Kites
adapted to this by hunting prey that is small. Some raptors
have very strong feet and legs and can grab, kill, and haul away
prey that is even bigger than they are. Kites can’t do this so
they pick easier to handle small prey or even dead animals.
The biggest raptors, eagles are about
three feet long and, when they fully stretch out their
they can be seven feet wide. They build stick nests that have
leaves and moss inside them to make them softer. The nests,
called eyries, are in places where people won’t bother them.
They might be very high up in trees or on mountain cliffs.
Eagle nests are really big for two reasons. The first is that
they are big birds and need a big nest to fit their whole
family. The second is that they reuse their nests and keep
adding sticks and leaves to them each year. The nests get
bigger and bigger as the years pass.
Eagles mate for life and share parent jobs. The
female hatches the eggs and then they both feed the eaglets and
teach them to hunt. Since they are such big birds, they need to
eat larger prey. In order to capture, kill and carry away BIG
prey, they have really strong feet. When they swoop down on
their prey, they stick their talons in and kill them. They use
their beaks to rip and tear their prey.