Birds of Prey Facts: Lesson for Kids

The small birds you might see chirping and hopping near your home are sweet, but there are birds that look fierce and put fear into their prey. In this lesson you will learn about the types of birds know as birds of prey, and their habitats.

Characteristics and Types of Birds of Prey

Birds of prey are predators, animals that hunt other animals such as mice, other rodents, and insects. They are also known as raptors, a term that comes from the Latin word ‘rapere’ which means ‘to capture’. These birds have very strong eyesight, which allows them to see their prey clearly and from a distance. They have sharp claws, also called talons, that help them scoop up their prey as they swoop down. Last but not least, their curved beaks allow them to hook into their prey to clean the animal before they eat it.

Hundreds of birds fall into the category of bird of prey, and many can fall into multiple categories. To keep this lesson a little simpler, we’ll focus on six major kinds of birds of prey: owls, vultures, eagles, hawks, and falcons.

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Owls

There are about 200 species of owls which include the screech owl, great horned owl, barn owl and snowy owl. Most owls live in the forests, deserts, and mountains.

Different kinds of owls
owls

Owls usually eat mice, rats, rabbits, and sometimes small birds, while the larger owls also might eat large ducks and skunks. Owls might live about 10 or 15 years in the wild. The size of owls ranges from the elf owl, which weighs 1 oz and is 5 inches long, to the eagle owl, which weighs up to 10 pounds and is about 29 inches with a wingspan of about 7 feet.

Vultures

Image of a vulture
vulture

There are over 30 species of vultures around the world, which live everywhere except Australia (and surrounding islands) and also Antarctica. Vultures are scavengers which means they eat animals that are already dead, rather than hunting live ones. These birds can live up to 30 years, and weigh up to 5 pounds. They grow up to 32 inches in length, with 72 inches in wingspan, and can fly up to 30 miles per hour.

Eagles

There are 60 different species of eagles. Bald eagles weigh up to 18 pounds and measure up to 38 inches long, while their wingspan is almost 8 feet long.

bald eagle

The golden eagle measures about the same in weight, length and wingspan as the bald eagle. The harpy eagle is smaller than the bald eagle and has feathers that resemble that of an owl. Eagles can rotate their heads 180 degrees (all the way to the back).

Hawks

You may not be able to see hawk nests, because hawks like to build nests high in the trees. But you might catch them swooping down to grab mice, fish, snakes, and lizards. You have probably heard of or seen the red-tailed hawk with a unique brownish-red color in its tail.

A bird of prey that is commonly known as a sea hawk or fish hawk is called an osprey. Usually you would see ospreys flying towards the water to catch fish or hanging out on the shore. You would also notice that these types of hawks are brown on top and have white stomachs. Ospreys can also be called fish eagle.

Falcons

Two types of falcons include peregrine and the American kestrel.The peregrine can swoop down at over 200 miles per hour, making it the fastest bird.

Male kestrels have a bluish color, while the female has redish streaks. This bird has two dark spots on the back of its head, making it look like it has an extra set of eyes!

Lesson Summary

Birds of prey have special characteristics that set them apart from other birds, which include: curved claws, sharp feet, strong eyesight, and hooked beaks. Except for vultures, which eat animals that are already dead, the other birds of prey are hunters. These other birds of prey are: owls, eagles, hawks, osprey and, and falcons.

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