In the Southeast corner of Europe the “Dadia-Leukimi-Soufli Forest Reserve” provides an excellent example of a wild, unusually well preserved area. The impressive variety of wildlife, and especially the birds of prey, have made Dadia one of the best known protected areas in Greece, where 36 out of the 38 European predatory birds are found.
Learn more about Dadia and its conservation of birds of prey:
The expression “Predatory Birds” or “Birds of Prey” are used to describe two highly distinctive and fascinating groups of birds – raptors and owls – though some authorities apply the term only to the former.
As a broad distinction raptors can be classed as diurnal birds of prey, that is, those abroad during daylight, and owls as nocturnal ones, mostly active night. Raptors are the supreme predators among birds and have vividly captured man’s imagination as symbols of might and skill, as witnessed by their frequent depiction in heraldic coats of arms and their widespread use in the ancient art of falconery. Owls, silent hunters of the dark, figure prominently and variedly in myth and folklore and have been both worshipped as deities and feared as harbingers of doom.
Scientists do not regard raptors and owls as close relatives in evolutionary terms. Indeed, the nearest relatives or raptors are ducks, and gamebirds such as pheasants, while those of owls are nightjars and cuckoos. Nevertheless, both groups have many attributes in common as a consequence of similarities in their ways of life.
Birds of prey are characterized by sharp talons, hooked beaks, and large, penetrating eyes. Their feet, capable of exerting a powerful and lethal grip, are the main weapons used to kill prey. The weak feet of vultures, which rarely kill their own quarry, are an exception. Long claws, known as talons, are used to firmly hold onto game while it is torn into manageable pieces by the dramatically hooked beak. Most owls, however, swallow their food whole. Familiar expressions such as “eagle-eyed” and “hawk-eyed” celebrate the superb and enviable eyesight of all birds of prey.
In all there are approximately 286 different types or species of raptor and 133 owls. The following narrative describes in more detail the intriguing lifestyles of these diverse and majestic birds.