Birds of Prey
December 14, 2010 6:38 AM   Subscribe

You didn't much like Raptorize and were hoping for something about real raptors (not F-22 fighters), therefore I am pleased to give you the goods on Birds of Prey. Raptors are birds that hunt (or scavenge) for meat, not plant life, and share several physical traits (although they can vary in size from miniature (pygmy) owls to Andean condors). Eagles and hawks (accipitridae), among the largest birds of prey in the United States), falcons (falconidae), condors, harriers, kites, ospreys (pandionidae), owls (tytonidae and strigidae), secretary birds (sagittariidae) and vultures (cathartidae) are all raptors; all have hooked beaks, fantastic visual acuity and sharp talons. The word raptor comes from the Latin rapere (to seize), apt description of their hunting style. Raptor breeders abound, as do raptor associations (quite a list at the Global Raptor Information Network). Rescue and rehabilitation organizations nurse injured raptors back to health; you can Adopt-a-Bird, and even donate regularly to help the birds via your very own Raptor Center Credit Card. Failing that, you can always help others learn more about conservation of these magnificent and beautiful creatures. And if you are super keen, you can attend the Winter Raptor Fest 2011. posted by bwg (22 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
For some reason the "hunting style" link is borked inline, but the link does work at YouTube.
posted by bwg at 6:46 AM on December 14, 2010

Awesome post bwg. I like the photo of the Philippine Serpent-Eagle in your Eagles link.

But all those links and nothing about the Sport of Falconry?
posted by three blind mice at 6:56 AM on December 14, 2010

Golden Eagles are badass enough to hunt mountain goats.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:11 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Birds of prey know they're cool.
posted by cccorlew at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2010

Was going to FPP this at some point, but here you go:

The Turkey Vulture Society has tips for attracting vultures or repelling them from your property, depending on your druthers.
posted by hermitosis at 7:19 AM on December 14, 2010

There is not nearly enough badass snake catching action in this post.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you left out the stuff about the Klingons.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:54 AM on December 14, 2010

Now these are some raptors! Thank you.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:02 AM on December 14, 2010

I have a delightful elderly woman who attends my church faithfully even though she is a confessed atheist. (We have quite a handful of atheists who come for the music and spirited preaching). She drives a Cadillac with an Obama/Biden bumper sticker and another that reads, "Taxes help fight fires!"
Yesterday she stopped me in the church parking lot. It was frigid and blustery and I was hurrying to my car. She asked me, "Do you know birds?" As it happens, I do know birds! I love birds. She said she'd found a bird and wanted me to identify it. "Awesome!" I said. "Is it a photograph or do you have the bird in box?" She opened her passenger side door and pulled out a frozen raptor. "What's this?"
"THAT," I said in surprise, "Is a dead Cooper's Hawk." Apparently she had found it on the sidewalk, dead as a doornail. Sadly, they freeze to death quite frequently around here.
She smiled and tossed it back in her car. It was in flawless condition and I told her she should have it taxidermied. She said she'd take it to the local nature conservatory. It was really amazing, though, to be so up close and personal with a hawk like that.

A few years ago I was researching potential post-apocalyptic skills that I thought may be useful and I landed on blacksmithing. However my second choice was falconry. I learned a ton about it and discovered that as you advance through the ranks of the sport you are permitted to possess gradually larger raptors. The "starter bird" for a resident of Michigan is a Cooper's Hawk. I really just wanted an owl, like Archimedes from the Sword in the Stone. "What's that noise?" "Ah, that's just my owl."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:41 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just discovered last night that eagles can hunt big things like wolves, foxes,
deer, and (as linked to above, but worth a second link for sure:) mountain goats.
posted by brenton at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am very disappointed to find only 10 comments.

Boo! Shame!
posted by cromagnon at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2010


*goes off to read links*
posted by rtha at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2010

Awesome post! Few things as spectacular as these creatures--close up they can be overwhelming (and I think birds in general are astonishing). Some great pics and info here. Even other birds think raptors are cool--my cute little Senegal parrot does a Scary Raptor Noise which I think she picked up from a red-tail hawk.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2010

If you want to go look at raptors in the winter on the West coast, you can go to the Klamath Basin in February for the Winter Wings Festival. It's a weekend full of fun, like getting up at 4:30 in the morning, driving to the end of a bumpy dirt road, and then waiting in the freezing darkness for the daily bald eagle flyout. (I am not actually being sarcastic.) The Klamath region hosts the largest gathering of bald eagles in the lower 48; they stand around in flooded fields, waiting for rodents to flee their burrows (or they steal said rodents from other birds); the perch in trees in large groups, like so many crows. You can also see golden eagles, and rough-legged hawks, and prairie falcons. Not to mention a zillion kinds of ducks and geese and other waterfowl.
posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite bird of prey is definitely the lammergeier or lamb vulture. But lammergeier doesn't actually go after lambs, because lammergeier lives almost entirely off a diet of bone. He cruises around using his 9 foot wingspan and the thermal gusts of his steep mountainous terrain (as high as 15-20,000 feet) to glide effortlessly, barely having to move his wings at all. He waits for the lesser birds to strip a carcass of meat until it's all bone, at which point he swoops down and grabs several kilograms of bone. Lammergeier then climbs 200 feet or so in the air, dives, and carefully drops the bone onto a rocky outcropping to shatter it into fist sized pieces. Of course this cracking makes a gigantic noise, so lammergeier performs a maneuver that would make a fighter pilot proud to turn out of his dive and quickly join up with these pieces, denying others the opportunity. Lammergeier swallows these massive chunks of bone whole, for he has stomach juices stronger than battery acid which break them down.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:47 AM on December 14, 2010

I told her she should have it taxidermied.

I'd check state laws first since the Migratory Bird Act prohibits the possession of birds, or parts of a bird, even if they're dead. I don't know anything about the American laws surrounding this, but here in Canada it's regulated provincially and, you can get a permit to keep a dead bird most of the time. Only reason I know this is I found a Red Tail Hawk that I want to keep.

I have friends who are falconers, my favourite from the bunch was a Gyre falcon they named Rambo thinking it was a male, the name stuck despite the discovery he was a she. Felt a little sad at them being cooped up which is why I never got into falconry myself even though I loved everything else (sans the feeding part) about the sport.
posted by squeak at 12:21 PM on December 14, 2010

A few months ago my wife and I attended a "Raptor Weekend" where the local natural society brings in a bunch of birds of prey for the public to see up close. The funny thing was, while you are sitting there looking at how beautiful they are, they turn and look straight at you... and that's right around the time you realize a killing machine capable of speeds in excess of roughly 14 times faster than you can ever hope to run, with razor sharp claws and a beak designed for ripping flesh apart, is staring right at you with nothing more than a thin piece of dried leather holding it in place. Very strange experience.

Later there were some flight demonstrations with the ever so kind preclude not to bother ducking when it flew inches overhead as they hug the ground on purpose so they'll just swoop lower if you duck.

I can't quite justify the time cost for lessons to become a falconer, but I also get the feeling I'll make time soon. I'm hoping they can be used to protect crops from birds and rodents like this winery does.
posted by jwells at 12:21 PM on December 14, 2010

I went to the Teton Raptor Center in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this year. If you're in the area for skiing or sightseeing it's definitely worth a stop. They have quite a few live birds there, that are being rehabilitated (when possible) or kept (when not) and a falconer on staff who's training several birds.

If mouse halves bother you, though, watch out for that.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:01 PM on December 14, 2010

In 2008 and 2009, I spotted what I thought was a small eagle sitting in the walnut tree that towers over my pasture. Both years, he showed up right around Thanksgiving for a single spotting and then was gone again. Almost a month ago, I opened the curtain upstairs--for a window with a good view of the tree top--to find a bald eagle atop the walnut tree, calmly surveying the pasture and surrounding fields (and, I suspect, my chickens). He sat there for a few minutes and then spread his wings and swooshed by the house, past the window where I was standing. His wingspan was longer than I am tall and he pushed aside the air effortlessly with every sweep of his wings. I have never seen such controlled power in an animal, and such an unruffled, concentrated manner of movement. It took my breath away. Accidental graces happen; I feel grateful to have seen this magnificent bird at rest and in flight in a natural setting. Thank you, universe!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:13 PM on December 14, 2010

And if you are super keen, you can attend the Winter Raptor Fest 2011.

It's only one week after The International Festival of Owls.
posted by ovvl at 4:51 PM on December 14, 2010

ovvl: "And if you are super keen, you can attend the Winter Raptor Fest 2011.

It's only one week after The International Festival of Owls

posted by bwg at 5:09 PM on December 14, 2010

« Older "We’re just Christians who think the political and...   |   You've got to end this war in Afghanistan. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments