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Raptors

The term raptors combines two modern orders: Falconiformes and Strigiformes. Both very distant from each other in origin, they belong to the same ecological group that fed on large (relative to their size) animals. As a consequence, raptors are armed with sharp, curved talons and a strong, hooked beak.

FalconiformesОрлан-белохвост. Фото И. Карякина.

Falconiformes inhabit all continents except Antarctica, and can be found in a wide variety of biomes; from the tundra and highlands to the tropics. All of these birds have three toes pointing forwards, and one toe pointing backwards. Perhaps the only exception is the Osprey, which has a revolving outer toe, due to its specialisation in the preying on fish. Most Falconiformes, except for the vultures, actively hunt on prey species during the day. The set of Falconiformes includes a variety of ecological groups. Diurnal raptors with broad and long wings can soar in the sky at will, looking for food. Those with long, tapering wings are great aerial hunters. Raptors with short wings and a long tail are rapid ambush hunters.

In the world, there are about 290 species of birds of prey, which are united in 4 families; the Accipitridae (224 species), Falconidae (62 species), Pandionidae (1 species) and Sagittariidae (1 species). Previously the Falconiformes comprised also the family of American Vultures (Catharidae), which are currently listed either as the order Ciconiiformes, or is identified as a separate order (7 species). In Russia, there are 48 species; 5 vagrants and 43 breeding species.

 Филин. Фото И. Карякина.

Strigiformes

Owls live an all continents except Antarctica, and inhabit different biomes, from the tundra and highlands to the tropics. These birds have great camouflage and structure of their plumage allows them to fly silently, and they also have surprisingly subtle hearing and eyesight, which all contributes to a successful night-time hunt. Only a few species, mainly living in the northern latitudes and the polar day conditions, are not nocturnal. Owls feed on insects, fish, lizards, frogs, and various species of birds, rodents and hares.

Owls do not have ties of relationship with to the diurnal birds of prey, and only are combined with them provisionally. In the world, there are about 250 species of owls or nocturnal raptors. In Russia there are 17 species, all of which are breeding.

 

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