The Accipitridae

The Accipitridae

The Accipitridae

With 208 species, this family is the largest of its order. Although it groups together verities of birds which apparently varies from eagles to harriers, the classification is built around common anatomical characteristics. As to illustrate few of them: the partitioning of the nostrils, the intestine provided with cecum and the number of cervical vertebrae.  Eagles and buzzards have broad and strongly fingered wings. Not like many other birds, they hover and spin for a long time. The beak is strong and so are the legs and talons. Kites (birds) are characterized by their bent wings and especially by their long and indented tails. They are excellent gliders, feeding more on carcasses than on live preys. As for the harriers, if they sometimes rise as high as their cousins – eagles, it is rather common too getting involved in by swaying a few meters above the ground or maneuvering between the reeds.

Finally, vultures and hawks are distinguished by their short wings, and at the same broad and rounded at their ends, they are also distinguished by their long and flexible tail which allows to abrupt changes of direction. Discreet by nature, they prefer staying in the woods and behind the dense foliage where other birds of prey hardly risk themselves. Daring and fiery hunters, they are capable of brutal acceleration, breathtaking volt-faces (about-faces), and unplanned stops.

The Accipitridae

Pursuing their prey tenaciously, very fast in short-distanced-flights, they easily weave their way through the labyrinth of coppicing and branches, using their long legs to grab small mammals and especially birds, on which they feed almost exclusively. Much larger than their companions, females are particularly active. All present on the throat, belly level, underside of wings and tail, alternating bright and dark horizontal stripes. A third smaller than his mate, the male shows a different and more colorful livery among sparrow-hawks. There are 51 species in the world including 3 in Europe.

A final word

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