Birds of prey- Falcons, eagles, hawks owls, and vultures-
are found throughout the world in virtually every climate and
terrain from dessert mountains to sea-level jungles. Their
prey includes almost every kind of animal, living or dead.
Hunting techniques range from vultures' soaring far above the
ground watching for dead animals to falcons' diving attacks
on flying birds at breathtaking speeds reported to exceed 200
miles per hour. Birds of prey have extrordinarily keen eyesight.
The diurnal species (daytime hunters) -hawks, falcons and vultures-
have full color vision with from four to eight times the resolving
power of the human eye. A soaring eagle, for example may be
able to spot a rabbit two miles away.
The nocturnal (night-time hunting) owl's eyes are highly
adapted to low light conditions and they have extremely sensitive
hearing. Both senses are used to locate prey. Soft feathers
specially adapted for silent flight enable owls to noislessly
approach unsuspecting prey. Hawks, eagles, and falcons are
among the most beautiful, graceful and fierce of all living
creatures. Throughout recorded history they have been both
revered and reviled. They have been prized as hunters by
falconers throughout the world for thousands of years. Cultures
as diverse as those of early Rome, primitive North Borneo,
and the United States have accorded various birds of prey
great symbolic value.
But man has also been the greatest enemy of the world's
birds of prey. Shooting historically has taken a great toll
due to occasionally real, but most often imagined competition
with man for prey. The widespread use of certain pesticides
has been liked to catastrophic declines in some particularly
susceptible raptor populations. Loss of habitat through human
disturbance is an ever-increasing threat to raptors. In recent
years there has been an increased concern for the plight
of birds of prey throughout much of the civilized world.
Many protective regulations, laws, and international treaties
have been enacted. Protection of crucial habitats, like the
Snake River Birds of Prey Area, is one of the keystones of
worlwide efforts to protect birds of prey.