FLIGHT, HUNTING AND TECHNIQUE
Raptors are among the most specialized and skilled predators and use different techniques to catch their meal. Birds of prey are adapted to their habitat and to their prey, this means that flight and hunting style vary depending on the type of bird.
The short, wide wings of forest hawks (or Accipiters) enables them to swiftly maneouvre in the forest and brush. Long, thin wings can be useful in open areas where Buteo hawks like to hunt.
The Peregerine Falcon is very aerodynamic and very fast; it has pointed wing tips and can reach speeds of 300 km/h when stooping (diving) towards its prey. In fact 99% of its diet is composed of birds that it catches in flight or “on the wing” as we say.
An other species of falcon, the American Kestrel, is able to hover above its prey, like a helicopter, and waits for the perfect moment to plunge and grab it with its talons.
The large rounded wings of vultures, eagles and some hawks allows these birds to soar high in the sky by using warm air currents called thermals. The currents of hot air spiral up and these birds circle within them and can glide from one thermal to another. Soaring is an effortless way to scout out a large territory for food by using little energy. Another easy way to hunt is to simply sit and wait. Hawks, like many owls, often perch in a tree, on a fence or a lamppost, watching or listening for a prey to pass by. Once they find a meal, these raptors will glide down towards it and grab it with their powerful talons.
The Turkey Vulture, and other vultures for that matter, are not especially good hunters. They will soar in the sky in search of carcasses. Vultures are scavengers and eat dead animals. There is some skill involved in scavenging, vultures usually spot the carcass with their great vision; Turkey Vultures have a good sense of smell and can detect a rotting carcass from pretty far away.
Owls have very smooth and soft feathers, with the edges of their wing feathers being fringed to allow some air to pass; this gives owls near silent flight. Since owls need to hear their prey to catch them in the dark and need to be quiet to surprise them, silent flight is a must for these nocturnal hunters.
Fish eaters like the Bald Eagle and the Osprey use other techniques. The Bald Eagle will grab live or dead fish from the surface of the water with his talons. The Osprey however will nearly hover above the water, by flying against the wind, till it sees a fish move below, then it will drop feet first into the water, often submerging itself.