Birds of prey are those that feed wholly or mainly on meat taken by hunting. They catch other birds, and small animals, for their food.
There are two chief families, the hawks and the falcons. The hawks include eagles, such as the bald eagle (symbol of the United States) and the golden eagle. The falcons are smaller but share the same, general characteristics – hooked beaks, keen vision and outstanding powers of flight. Owls, also, feed on flesh.
Besides being fast flyers, many birds of prey are expert at gliding and hovering. Their principal strategy of attack is the “stoop”, when from a great height they sight their prey, close their wings and swoop upon the victim. This manoeuvre calls for a combination of speed and last-second braking unique to this type of bird.
In advanced countries birds of prey have suffered severely from the effects of poisonous agricultural sprays which have polluted their food sources. This has threatened their survival. But the danger has now been recognized, and in many areas their numbers are slowly recovering.