How Birds of Prey Hunt
Hunting technique varies between species. Here are the main differences
Falcons hunt by flying to a great height , riding warm air thermal currents to gain height without expending much energy, their excellent eyesight enabling them to locate prey from high in the air. They then tuck in their wings and descend rapidly upon the prey. This is called “stooping”. They knock down their quarry with the talons on their hind toes as they go past although they may sometimes catch and hold prey in mid air or “punch” with a clenched foot.
Falcons in the “stoop” have been timed to be travelling at over 200 miles per hour. In falconry shows the flight of the falcon is demonstrated by flying the bird to the “lure”. This is usually a leather pouch containing food which is swung on a string around the falconers head to lure the bird in.
Kestrels hunt using a different technique. They hover, sometimes for long periods and then simply drop on their prey.
Hawks have short wings which give them a lot of power at take off and long tails which provide good steering and brakes making them more manouverable than falcons and enabling them to pass easily between tree branches. Only rarely do hawks stoop from height like falcons. Hawks either wait on a branch for prey to come near or fly low over hedgerows or through woods, appearing over hedges and taking their quarry by surprise.
Harris Hawks have been known to hunt in packs – family groups combining to overcome prey. This trait allows them to be flown together in falconry shows, something which is not possible, or safe, with other birds of prey.