Hawks, Eagles, Kites and allies

The Orders Accipitriformes includes our most familiar diurnal birds of prey, hawks, eagles, and kites amongst many others. They have short, strongly hooked bills and sharp, curved talons (claws). The bills feature a fleshy cere and imperforate nostrils. The legs are generally short with powerful feet, except for in the stately long-legged Secretarybird of Africa. Diets range from small insects to large vertebrates, carrion, and oily fruits. The Osprey is distinguished by a reversible outer toe and sharp spicules on the underside of the foot, both adaptations for holding slippery fish. Females are often larger than males, particularly in bird-eating species. Most species breed in trees, although some breed on cliff ledges or in tree cavities. Clutches range from three to five eggs in small species to one to two in large species. The semiprecocial young hatch covered with down and their eyes open. After they leave the nest, young birds of prey depend on their parents for food for up to several months until they develop hunting skills.

This order has a worldwide ditribution, found on all continents ecxept the Artic and Antartic region It is one of the most recognizable and familiar groups. The Hawks and Eagles are predators on mammals, reptiles, fish, and other birds. The large, heavy bodied Hawks hunt for mammals and reptiles by soaring, descending when a prey item is located, and grasping the item with the talons. The slimmer bodied hawks tend to prey on bird. One very small hawk of the neotropics (the Tiny Hawk) specializes on hummingbirds. The Osprey (or fishhawk) is a fish-eating hawk in its own family (Pandionidae) that is found almost everywhere in the world. The secretarybird (Sagittariidae) is a large bird of the African plains, where it specializes on catching reptiles. Although they can fly, they are usually cursorial (walk/run on the ground). Roughly one third of the species are under some kind of threat. Loss of habitat, the need for vast territoria, poisoning, hunting, trading and trapping have brought many of the strongest birds to the brink of extinction.

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