Raptors are birds of prey that primarily hunt prey or scavenge for carrion. Raptors include diurnal (chiefly active in the daytime) birds as well as the nocturnal owl. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere, which means to seize.
Raptors have three physical characteristics that set them apart from other birds. These include strong grasping feet with sharp talons used to seize prey, a hooked or hook-tipped beak used to kill and consume prey and a diet that consists mostly of meat. Though raptors have great eyesight, it is not a trait exclusive to them. Most raptors have a poor sense of smell, if any.
Raptors that live in or pass through the southeastern United States include: Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, Vultures, Osprey, Owls, Harriers and Kites.
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. If raptors in nature are threatened, then other animals in that ecosystem also are at risk.