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Birds of prey, or raptors, are species of bird that hunt live prey that is considered large compared to the size of the bird itself. Eagles, owls, hawks, and vultures are some of the types of birds that fall under the category of bird of prey. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some species of carrion are widely considered among the most beautiful, either because of a unique feature or because they epitomize the stereotype of this type of bird. Below are 25 of the most beautiful species in the world.
The Golden Eagle is a huge bird of prey. It is the largest carrion in North America and the national bird of Mexico. They eat small mammals and rodents, picking up their prey with strong feet and sharp talons. Although most of the bird’s feathers are dark brown, it gets its name from the lighter, golden-looking head and neck feathers.
The Harpy Eagle is described as the deadliest raptor in the Amazon. This species has a wingspan of six feet or more and they hunt large animals like monkeys and even some deer. Their talons are around the same size as the claws of a black bear.
The White Bellied Sea Eagle, as its name suggests, lives near the sea and approximately half of its diet is made up of fish. The rest of its name comes from the fact that it has white feathers on the belly and underside of the bird. It can be easy to spot from underneath, as a result.
The Bald Eagle is another species of sea eagle that is a symbol of the US. While this bird appears bald, adults do have bright white plumage on the head and the contrast between this and the dark brown bodies is what earned them the moniker of Bald Eagle. While Bald Eagles are formidable hunters and fishers, they steal a lot of their food from other animals.
The Philippine Eagle is sometimes called the Monkey-Eating Eagle, although this is a misnomer as the bird does not actually eat monkeys. Killing one of these birds in the Philippines carries a 12-year prison sentence, while the bird itself has a life expectancy of up to 60 years.
The Crowned Eagle is well-known in Africa for its “kewee-kewee-kewee” call. The male is smaller than the female, which is common in birds of prey species, and it has a higher-pitched call.
Native to Australia, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle can make nests of 2-meters in diameter and that are 4-meters deep. The large size of the nest is indicative of how large the bird itself is, with a wingspan of nearly 3 meters. When young, this eagle is light brown, but it darkens as it ages.
Found primarily in Russia, the Steller’s Sea Eagle can sometimes be found in parts of the US, Japan, and rarely in some other parts of Asia. It is the largest sea eagle and has been weighed as the heaviest eagle. The female can weigh 20 pounds.
The largest eagle in Africa, the Martial Eagle, eats venomous snakes and even has the strength to lift jackals and antelopes. While they cannot lift a human in the air, they have the power to be able to break arms, although there are no recorded cases of this happening. Unfortunately, this species is considered endangered.
Although only considered a medium-sized raptor, the Northern Goshawk is large for a hawk and can grow almost as big as a buzzard. It has wings that are designed to enable high speeds and that give the agility to fly between trees and other obstacles.
Like other species of hawk, the Red-Tailed Hawk has astute vision and while you might not be aware, there’s a good chance that you know the call of the Red-Tailed Hawk. Move and TV producers use the aggressive call of this bird in place of the less-impressive sound of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle birds.
Found in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as the southwestern United States, the Harris’s Hawk is a medium-sized raptor that is popular in falconry. It has the rare habit of hunting in packs, with most birds of prey preferring to hunt solo.
Sparrowhawks are quite vicious bird hunters. They eat smaller birds, eat them alive, and have even been known to hunt and catch bats in their territory. Although it is not uncommon for female birds of prey to be larger than males, the female Sparrowhawk can be twice as heavy as her male counterpart.
Burrowing Owls are unusual in the bird world because they can and do dig their own burrows, although they will also move into existing burrows and take them over from other species. Although they eat rodents, Burrowing Owls do also eat a lot of insects.
The Great Horned Owl does not have horns, but it does have tufts of feathers that stick out from either side of the head and that give the appearance of horns. It is a large species of owl that has a long wingspan of five feet despite only weighing as little as three pounds.
The Snowy Owl’s beautiful white markings enable it to camouflage against the snowy tundra where it lives. It is a large owl, being the largest North American species, and can sometimes be found roosting in buildings and towns, as well as along rivers and in marshlands.
The largest owl in the world, the Eurasian Eagle Owl, can grow to 28 inches long and have a wingspan of over 6 feet. They have incredible hearing, enabling them to pinpoint the sound of their prey’s movement, and large orange eyes, which enable them to spot prey in the dark.
Barn Owls, like most owls, are nocturnal, which means that they hunt at night. They tend to live in barns and hunt in surrounding fields. To make it easier to grab prey from in long grass and undergrowth, they have long legs and elongated, sharp talons.
The Peregrine Falcon’s greatest claim to fame is that it is considered the fastest animal in the world. When diving to catch prey, it can reach speeds of over 240mph. It even has uniquely shaped nostrils that allow it to breathe effectively when traveling at these speeds.
The Andean Condor is one of two species of Condor, which are a group of very large birds of prey. The Andean Condor lives in the Andean mountains and weighs over 30 pounds. They have a wingspan of 10 feet and fly up to 200 miles in a single day, in search of food.
The other species of Condor is the California Condor, resident to California. It is of a similar size to the Andean Condor and was once considered sacred to Native Americans. It soars as high as 15,000 feet in the air, making it difficult to spot despite its huge size.
Kestrels are deceptively small, weighing around 200 grams. It primarily eats rodents but will feed on smaller birds when living and hunting in towns and built-up areas. Although they are diurnal, they have a very keen sense of sight which means that they can hunt in very low light levels.
Ospreys live by the sea and although they will usually eat a diet that consists of fish, they will also eat some lizards and small mammals. They fly several thousand miles every year, mate for life, and although they almost disappeared because of DDT poisoning, their numbers have improved a little.
The Bearded Vulture is a very rare bird of prey that primarily roosts in the mountains of Europe, although it has been spotted in the UK. As well as being rare, it is a large bird of prey with wings that stretch up to 10 feet and they have wiry bristles under their mouths, which look like a beard.
The King Vulture is a unique looing New World vulture. It has a striking appearance thanks, at least partially, to its total lack of eyelashes. It is 2.5 feet tall, weighs 8 pounds, and has a range that spans from Mexico to Argentine.
Birds of prey, or carrion, are incredible birds and while we most often think of the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, there are hundreds of different species, including those with unique physical characteristics. While we have listed 25 of what we consider to be the most beautiful or unique of these birds, there are many others that could have made this list.
Featured Image Credit: daemonzzz, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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