That marvelous, soaring creature you’ve just spotted high above the treetops is probably a raptor—a bird of prey. It’s no doubt been eyeing you, too.
There are all kinds of raptors, from eagles, osprey, hawks and owls to kites, vultures, and even the nearly extinct condor. They all have a few things in common: They eat meat, so they have sharp talons to help catch their prey and strong, hooked beaks to tear it apart. Their long, broad wings let them catch rising air currents and soar through the air, which saves them energy while they stay aloft to hunt. Their favorite foods are mice and rabbits, fish and snakes, and even other birds. It’s a guilty thrill to see a raptor flying off with a fish or mouse in its talons. Most catch and kill their prey, but some, like vultures, eat the leftovers.
Raptors’ eyes are big to help them spot their prey. But here’s something many people don’t know: the eyes are so big that raptors can’t move them. They have to turn their entire heads to see something—which is how owls got the reputation of being able to swivel their heads entirely around. But they can’t.