Birds of Prey ???

Birds of Prey – probably one of the most well known phrases used by “birders” around the world – but what do we mean by it?


Prey is the only word in the phrase which can help us to understand which birds we might be talking about. Taken literally it could be insects, invertebrates, meat, fish or carrion.

The photograph of an Osprey (right), with its hooked beak and talons, leaves no doubt about what prey it has caught and most people would have no hesitation in calling the Osprey a bird of prey.


On the other hand this photograph (left) shows a bird with a hooked beak with a sand-shark in its mouth.

The bird in this case is a Double-crested Cormorant which few if any would call a bird of prey.

The Osprey photograph highlights another important point about the birds we call birds of prey.

The hooked beak is used to tear the fish apart but it needs to be done on a firm surface like the post in this image.


If we now consider the Frigatebird (left), which has a hooked beak and snatches fish from the water surface, few people would call it a bird of prey. Frigatebirds are at sea for much of their time so they don't have access to a firm surface to butcher their prey and they have to eat and swallow it on the wing.

So the hooked beak of this bird only has to snatch the prey from the water surface - it does not need to do any tearing or butchering.

To see more click on Birds by Common Name Groups to access a review of Birds of Prey and other flesh eating birds.

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