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  Illinios Birds of Prey   

IL Birds of Prey -- Amazing Adaptations

Amazing Adaptations

Birds of prey have special adaptations or "tools of trade" that greatly enhance their hunting skills. They have excellent hearing, sharp talons and keen eyesight.

Ear openings on each side of the head behind and beneath the eyes provide birds of prey with excellent hearing. Their ears don't look like ours and are usually hidden by feathers. Some owls have ear tufts which are feathers that stick up over the ear and aid in directing the sound into the ear holes. Owls and harriers also have a facial disk (round face) that helps funnel sound into the ear openings.

ClawBirds of prey have a talon, or claw, on the tip of each their eight toes. Talons are made of keratin and are extremely sharp. The downward-curved shape, sharpness and length of the talons make it difficult for these birds to walk. Strong leg muscles, strong toes and sharp talons provide the necessary weapons to obtain food. Some birds of prey can crush the vertebrae of their victim with their toes! Muscles and talons allow these birds to carry their prey with their toes as they fly.

Another adaptation that makes birds of prey efficient predators is keen eyesight. These birds have the best eyes in the animal kingdom. Not only can they see greater distances than humans, but their visual acuity (ability to see clearly) is eight times that of ours. Their eyesight is as sharp as that of a human looking through eight power binoculars! As a result of its powerful vision, a red-tailed hawk can see a rabbit one mile away.

The eyes of birds of prey are so large that they have no room to move within their eye sockets. Since they cannot roll their eyes, they have very long, flexible necks which help them to turn their heads almost backwards.

Activity: Ask a friend to hold an open book toward you. Stand in front of the book and back up until the words are hardly visible. Read two or three sentences of the book. Measure the distance from you to the book. Multiply that distance by eight and move back that many feet from the book. Try to read the book again. If you had the eyesight of an eagle, you could still read that book clearly!

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