Raptors are also known as birds of prey. This is a category of bird that primarily hunts other animals or scavenges for carrion. Raptors include diurnal (chiefly active in the daytime) birds as well as the nocturnal owls. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere, which means to seize.
These birds have three characteristics that put them in the category of raptor: strong grasping feet with sharp talons used to seize prey, a hooked beak used to consume prey and a diet that consists mostly of other animals.
Raptors that live in or pass through the southeastern United States include various species of eagles, falcons, hawks, vultures, owls, kites, and also the Osprey and Northern Harrier.
Most raptors are members of the Orders Strigiformes (owls) or Falconiformes (falcons, hawks, eagles, osprey, harriers and kites).
Raptors are often at the top of the food chain in many ecosystems, which makes them ideal indicators of ecosystem health. They prey on a variety of other animals including other birds, mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles. All raptors are protected by state and federal laws. Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center operates with the permission of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and uses non-releasable raptors for educational presentations. A federal rehabilitation permit allows the Center to treat injured, ill and orphaned raptors with the goal of eventual release.