07.18/Birds of prey

Featured for July: Hunters with feathers

During my many photo hikes I often encounter what are known as birds of prey, typically large birds with keen eyesight and strong talons and beaks that feed on rodents and other animals. I usually see these birds soaring over fields, searching for movement that can identify a meal. They swoop down, grab the food and fly off.

But “birds of prey” isn’t an official, scientific taxonomic group. Instead, it’s a loosely defined term used to identify birds that feed on animals and — at times — birds that feed on insects. Using that description, just about any bird could be called a bird of prey.

I use what I consider a more traditional definition, including only birds that regularly hunt and consume animals as birds of prey. But nature websites are even mixed on that definition, with some including vultures in the group. Vultures dine on carrion (dead animals), so I further define my personal “birds of prey” classification to include birds that feed primarily on living animals.

That leaves me with a more focused grouping that includes birds like eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, falcons, kites, etc.

My photographs from here in Central Ohio include three types of hawks (the Red-tailed, the Sharp-shinned and the Cooper’s), owls and an occasional osprey. I have seen Bald Eagles flying in the area but I haven’t photographed one here. Same with kestrels, small falcons that I occasionally see perched on power lines when I’m driving somewhere. I’ve only seen one when I have a camera with me, but it saw me first and left.

When we are along Lake Erie in Northern Ohio each spring to photograph migrating warblers I often see Bald Eagles and osprey. 

And when we are in Southwest Florida in the winter I see Red-shouldered Hawks, osprey, kites and Bald Eagles. I don’t have photos of Swallow-tailed Kites yet. We saw several flying in Florida last February. Their four-foot wingspan and swallow tail make the white birds distinctive in flight.

I add a new featured gallery the first of each month. The numbers in the gallery title represent the month and year it was featured.  Previous featured galleries are in the archives.

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