Raptors at Night
I am about to tell you the basics of raptors, or birds of prey. You know them by various names but they share keen vision, talons, and beaks. They are evolutionary creatures that can detect rodents during flight. Capturing them is the goal. It is the way of the animal kingdom to target your easy sources of food. When the word comes up, you may think of eagles, ospreys, hawks, buzzards, and harriers depending upon your interest in hunting. While some species are still rare enough, we don’t want to plunder what creatures remain so we limit ourselves to observation, often at night when they are greatest in number. I personally love to take nighttime trips to see them in action, accompanied of course by my best hunting flashlight turned on to night vision mode.
The word predatory has a negative connotation, but basically it is defined by the birds’ practice of hunting and feeding on animals. After all, isn‘t this what mankind does with meat, fish, and poultry. Let’s not give raptors too bad a name. I mentioned their good eyesight which helps them find food. The talons help grip that food, and of course they have a curved beak that has evolved over centuries to tear flesh. Thus, some people fear their presence. They prefer birds in cages that don’t kill other beings. Ornithology is a vast field containing thousands of species, some are more endearing than others.
Usually, we don’t include storks and gulls in the category of raptors since they eat large fish primarily, which they catch with their beaks. True birds of prey by definition feed on vertebrates, or so I have been told. The prey can be larger than the bird itself. When I observe them at night, it is just to see them flying about, not to witness acts of destruction. It can be gruesome. I love the sight of the large eagle with its long, broad wings. It also has impressive feet. I relish the action of soaring with great wings spread. I am not into the eating of carrion although I know this is the raptor’s mode of being. Think of vultures and condors and the havoc they can wreak. They can feed on other birds as well, and various pests to farming such as rabbits. Thus, not everyone fears their presence. There is the balance of nature to consider in this realm. I have caught sight of many buzzards. They are a medium-size raptor known for their broad wings and rather robust constitution. By contrast, falcons have pointy wings and are very swift flyers. Let’s not forget the mighty own, a night hunting bird that silently soars through the sky with little turbulence. Unlike some other species, they have particularly good hearing.
Each of these birds of prey has a place in my hunting journal as I have a good nighttime digital camera. I am into collecting what I witness, not hunting them myself as prey.