Raptors are carnivorous birds such as
owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons. The specific features that are
common to all raptors are their eyes, talons, and beaks.
Raptors have very keen eyesight.
This enables birds like hawks to fly high above the ground and still be
able to see small animals like mice. Some raptors have eyesight that
is 8 times more acute than humans! Since the raptor's eyes are so
large, they can not roll around as human eyes can. Instead, they
have long necks that enable them to turn their heads almost backwards.
Raptors also have
feet that are quite different from other birds. Their feet have
talons that are lethal weapons perfect for catching, holding, and carrying
prey. Most raptors have three toes that face forward and one that
faces backward, each complete with its own talon. Their feet are so
strong that raptors could even crush small prey to death!
raptor's beak is very distinctive. It has a sharp point on the end
used to grab and tear meat. Raptors often hold the prey with their
feet, dig their beak in, and then pull to rip off a piece of meat.
Pennsylvania is home to many raptors
including: Cooper’s and Red-tailed hawks, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Golden
Eagles, Bald Eagles, and American Kestrels.
In the past raptors used Pennsylvania as
a major part of their migration route. Unfortunately, hunters used
this opportunity to hunt raptors. Today, hunting raptors is
prohibited, and these same areas that were once used for hunting have
become sanctuaries in many cases.
Wildlife specialists may have live
examples of Pennsylvania raptors, or they may have plenty of images to
share. During a program, they will give you the specifics of each
bird they show you. Below are a few examples of raptors that are
found in Pennsylvania. Can you see the distinctive raptor features
in each photo?
Turkey Vulture - Screech
Owl - Red Tailed Hawk - American Kestrel