Birds of Prey

Hawks

Buzzard

The term ‘hawk’ is used by most people to refer to those raptors that do not fit into the categories of eagle, falcon, vulture, or owl. The term covers a variety of both broad-winged birds of prey, such as the buzzards, kites, and harriers, and also the short-wing true hawks.

The true hawks include the Goshawk and Sparrow hawk and make up the large scientific group Accipiter. These birds are generally more highly strung than other birds of prey having incredibly quick responses. Their method of hunting is usually an explosive, low level, short distance pursuit normally after other birds, who are seized by the hawks large feet and long legs. Their short rounded wings and large tail enable them to maneuver through dense woodland and forests. Many of you will have seen sparrow-hawks catch small birds in your garden.

Buzzards or ‘Buteos’ are mostly medium sized birds of prey with long, broad wings and tail designed for soaring. The common buzzard has grown dramatically in numbers in recent years in the UK and is often seen locally, soaring over the falconry center.

Despite being seen gracefully spiraling to great heights on thermals with its large wings spread wide, the common buzzard is a fairly lazy, sluggish bird, even in summer, and is most likely to be seen ‘still hunting’ from a fence post or similar perch. In dry weather, groups of common buzzards may often be seen in fields hopping from foot to foot to create the sound of rain, which encourages worms to rise to the surface.

Falcons

Falcon

The falcons are the kings of speed of the raptor world. The peregrine falcon is on record as achieving the fastest speed of any animal, clocking just over 200 mph in a stoop. There are currently 54 known different species of falcon and they are all closely related and share many similar features.

The smallest is the sparrow sized black-thigh falconet found in Indonesia and Malaya which weighs between 1 and 2oz. The largest is the Gyr Falcon weighing up to 4.5lb, found during summer above the arctic circle, while it winters as far down as the US / Canadian border and northern Scandinavia.

The word falcon derives from the Latin word ‘Falco’ meaning scimitar-shaped – a reference to the shape of their wings. Falcons have long narrow wings, which are swept back from the body enabling them to fly very fast. Their feet have long thin toes and sharp talons designed to grasp and hold prey. They are also able to kill their prey with a bite to the neck. All falcons have a notch in their beaks to do this.

The classic image of a falcon is one in a full stoop diving at tremendous speed, chasing after its prey.   Here at the falconry center we fly our peregrine falcons to a lure to show you the natural behavior of a falcon stooping after prey.

Many of you may have seen peregrines nesting in and around town centers, and a not so common sight now – kestrels hovering at the side of the road or motorways, another bird easy to recognise by its flight pattern.

Eagles

Golden Eagle

Why not visit us and meet Shoshone, our magnificent golden eagle – a bird that really is impressive to see at close quarters.

An Eagle is a large, powerful predator with large, broad wings for soaring typically in rugged mountainous country. Although capable of stooping at a great speed and catching prey like rabbits and hares with those huge talons they are as likely to take carrion.

Being large, stocky birds they need a good deal of lift from the weather to fly well and being large birds they can easily decide to miss a day and wait for better weather before hunting again. When the weather conditions are good for lift, eagles can easily soar at hundreds, if not thousands of feet on thermal warm air currents. When high up in the air, they use their superb eyesight to scan the ground below for prey and carrion.

In this country we have the Golden Eagle living in parts of the Scottish Highlands, and the White Tailed Eagle, a coastal bird, limited to the western isles of Scotland after being successfully reintroduced in the late 1970’s on the Scottish island of Rhum.