Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are prevalent throughout most of the world and found on every continent except Antarctica. These majestic creatures live in both urban and rural areas and nest at great heights. In addition to daily migratory habits, many migrate to warmer climates annually.
What You'll Learn
Birds of prey are majestic creatures. They are often near the top of the relative food chain wherever they live.
Their capability of flight, proclivity for migration, excellent eyesight, and razor-sharp talons and beaks ensure that they have a place within the ecological food chain on almost every continent of the planet.
The question of where they live requires a more nuanced examination of the factors that influence their survival. The ability to find food in any climate, utilize weather patterns for hunting and migrating, and the location of their nesting will reveal how these creatures are so adept at spanning the entire globe.
Climate and Regional Locations
Included under the moniker of ‘birds of prey’ are hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and owls. These birds have adapted to nearly all world biomes, regardless of the conditions.
From deserts to forests and even the icy tundra, these predators adapt to the local region and prey on the animals within them.
Wherever there is an abundance of prey, birds of prey will also be found. For this reason, the only continent we do not find them on is Antarctica. This continent is untouched by predatory birds because of a lack of food.
The abundance of food found in every biome region offers birds of prey the ability to adapt and survive.
Vultures are particularly adept at surviving in the desert, as they are carrion feeders that prey on carcasses. The brutal heat and relative lack of moisture in the desert are perfect conditions for carrion feeders to do well there.
Eagles, hawks, and falcons also do well, feeding on everything from insects and rodents to reptiles and scorpions, all of which are plentiful in this region.
The harsh climate is not enough to deter them, and open spaces are especially convenient as hawks, eagles, and falcons use their superior eyesight to target prey from long open distances.
Even owls do well here, as they are nocturnal hunters and prey will wander in the cool nights.
Forests also provide excellent nocturnal hunting grounds for owls as they are flush with life. This provides plentiful food options for all birds of prey.
Given birds of prey can survive the harsh dry heat of the desert, the warm, wet, lush forests are a paradise hosting a myriad of dining options.
There is something for every type of bird, from a rife nightlife that a nocturnal hunter (such as the owl) can enjoy, to a multitude of rodents for eagles, falcons, and hawks. Even a carrion feeder such as the vulture can find plenty to eat as the forest climates offer something for every type of winged predator.
Whether it’s boreal, temperate, or tropical, any forest is a veritable cornucopia of riches when it comes to food for these birds of prey.
Tundra is trickier. The short summer season and harsh, frigid weather makes for more scarcity regarding a food supply.
However, rodents are still plentiful, and birds of prey can do well for themselves. The vulture is the only notable bird of prey not found in the tundra.
Eagles and owls, in particular, are found in places with snow, such as Alaska. In addition to rodents, bigger, thick-furred mammals also serve as prey for larger birds such as eagles and owls.
Because of the shorter warm-weather seasons, migration becomes an important facet of surviving the tundra.
The Migration of Birds of Prey
Though birds of prey can prevail in colder climates, the warmer climates offer a more plentiful existence. This gives rise to southern migration patterns. Aiding migration is convection, a weather phenomenon created by hot air rising. These convection currents influence travel within the region, but it also affects seasonal migration patterns.
Scouring high in the sky, birds of prey will follow thermal winds to scour a region on a daily hunt. As the season’s change, convection currents create migration routes leading to warmer regions. Bird migration is such an established concept that it has permeated human culture and given rise to the term ‘snowbird,’ which refers to people who avoid cold weather by migrating to warm, tropical places each winter.
The notion of migration is so inextricably tied to birds in general, and by extension, birds of prey, that we must mention it when discussing where they live. Following the warm southbound winds to where life and food are plentiful is a central component of how and where birds of prey make their lives and homes.
Where Do Birds of Prey Nest?
The main types of nesting that these birds maintain mostly involve trees. Whether it is building a nest within the branches or using a hollowed-out tree, it is clear that trees offer suitable homes to most birds, especially those located in forests.
As for deserts, vultures and owls use hollowed-out trees and cacti. Hawks, eagles, and falcons all use trees for nesting.
Forests, from tropical to temperate, house a great number of birds of prey, as they are thick with trees. This is perfect for hawks, as they prefer the crowns of tall trees for nesting. Because of their excellent eyesight, they can spot prey from long distances.
The Time of Year Determines Where Birds of Prey Live
When examining where birds of prey live, the answer is revealed to be much more about how they survive. Their innate fierceness and ability to soar on the winds of the changing seasons, always following the warmth of the sun, reveals a sense of adventure about life that is easily associated with freedom.
Where birds of prey live depends on the time of year. Their home is the earth, and they roam its skies surveying the lush beauty below, having traveled nearly all its furthest reaches.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.