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A Raptor is a bird of prey. The term is sometimes used more broadly, but in general it refers to diurnal species such as the hawks, eagles, buzzards, falcons and vultures.

Although most fill similar ecological roles and appear closely related on first sight, this is largely because of convergent evolution. The exact relationships remain disputed but it is clear that there are several largely unrelated families of raptor, including the Accipitridae (hawks, eagles, Old World vultures and many others), the Falconidae (falcons and allies), the New World vultures (Cathartidae), the Osprey (sole member of the Pandionidae), and the African Secretary Bird (Sagittaridae).

Sometimes raptor is also used to include other bird of prey, in particular the owls, frogmouths and nightjars.

Common terms and categories

Many terms are used to desribe particular types of raptor, both by specialists and laypeople, in ways that vary a good deal.

  • Eagles are large raptors with long, broad wings and massive legs. True eagles have feathered legs and build large stick nests. (Non-specialists often use the term very broadly, to indicate almost any raptor.)

  • Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs which spend a great deal of time soaring. In general they take live prey but mostly feed on carrion.

  • Falcons are small to medium sized raptors with long pointed wings that, unlike most other raptors, belong to the Falconidae rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. No falcons build nests; instead, they appropriate old nests of other birds or lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows.

  • Harriers are large, slender hawks with long tails and long, thin legs. Most hunt by gliding and circling low over grasslands and marshes on their ling, broad wings.

  • Buzzards are wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo.

The F/A-22 Raptor is a fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force.

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