A Bird Of Prey Glossary

ACCIPITER [ak-SIP-ih-ter]: A group of forest hawks with short, rounded wings, long tails, and long legs. From smallest to largest, the three accipiters found in the North East are the sharp-shinned hawk, the Cooperís hawk, and the northern goshawk.

BATE: An attempt by a bird of prey to fly when it is tied to a perch or held on a gloved hand.

BIRD OF PREY: A general term applied to eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and to the osprey. Scientists include vultures in this category. Birds of prey are flesh-eaters, usually hunt for their food (although many will eat carrion if it is available), and have talons and hooked beaks adapted for grasping and tearing meat. See RAPTOR.

BRANCHER: A young bird of prey old enough to leave the nest but too young to fly.

BUTEO [BOO-tee-oh or BYU-tee-oh]: A group of soaring hawks with long, broad wings and short tails. Buteos found in the northeast include the red-tailed hawk, the red-shouldered hawk, the broadwinged hawk, and the rough-legged hawk. See Buzzard.

BUZZARD: A general term applied in Europe to the buteos and in the U.S. to vultures such as the turkey vulture.

CERE: The fleshy area located at the base of the upper beak (mandible) in which the nostril (nare) openings are located.

COPE: To trim the beak and/or talons of a captive bird.

CREANCE [CREE-ahnce]: A long line attached to a captive birdís jesses that is used during the training of a falconry bird or to exercise a rehab bird.

EAGLE: A variable group (including more than fifty species) of large birds of prey. Two species occur in North America - the bald eagle, our national emblem, and the golden eagle. Both are very large, with long wings typically held flat when the birds are soaring. The bald eagle has a white head and tail when adult; it lives mainly on fish. The golden eagle has a largely white tail when immature; adult birds are brown, with golden hackle feathers. The golden eagle hunts chiefly mammals, such as rabbits and large rodents.

EYASS or EYESS [EYE-us]: A young bird of prey when still in the nest.

EYRIE or AERIE [EYE-ree]: The nest of a large bird of prey, especially one on a cliff or mountaintop.

FALCON [FAL-cun or FALL-cun]: A group of swift-flying hawks with long, pointed wings and dark eyes. Four species occur in the northeast. From smallest to largest, these are the American kestrel, the merlin, the peregrine falcon, and the gyrfalcon.

FALCONRY: The sport of hunting with a trained hawk or falcon, as well as the art of training these birds to hunt in partnership with humans.

HACK: In falconry, the verb means to set a young hawk or falcon free for several weeks to develop its flying ability. Among rehabilitators, the verb means to gradually reintroduce a bird into the wild after a period in captivity (as after an injury).

HAGGARD [HAG-urd]: A mature bird of prey.

HAWK: A general term usually applied to buteos and accipiters. In falconry, however, any trained bird, even a falcon, may be called a hawk.

HOOD: A leather cap that covers a raptorís eyes. Its function is to keep the bird calm and quiet.

IMPRINTING: A rapid and irreversible learning process which occurs soon after a bird is hatched. During imprinting a bird learns to recognize its parents and identify with them. If it associates with humans during this period, it will identify with people.

JESS: Either of two leather straps attached to the legs of captive birds of prey. Jesses allow a falconer or rehabilitator to handle the bird or tether it to a perch.

KETTLE: A group of migrating birds of prey soaring upward on rising air currents. The spiraling shape of the birds suggests boiling liquid in a kettle.

MANTLE: To spread the wings over dead prey in order to guard it.

MALAR STRIPE: The black stripe or "mustache" found under the eye of a falcon. It is said to help draw the glare of the sun out of the birdís eye.

MOLT: BTo shed old feathers and grow new ones.

NARES: The nostrils of a raptor. In falcons, they are specialized to prevent too much air being forced into their lungs during their characteristic high speed, head first dives.

OSPREY [OS-pray]: A widely distributed bird of prey with no close relatives. The osprey has broad wings that often show a kink or crook when the bird is in flight. The species feeds almost exclusively on fish, and has spiculeswhich are spiny-like projections on the bottom of the feet to help the bird hold onto its slippery prey.

OWL: A group of chiefly nighttime hunters; eighteen species occur in North America. Owls are unique among raptors in having soft plumage for virtually soundless flight. Other owl specialties include huge, forward facing eyes that can see in almost total darkness, and large ear openings that give the birds phenomenal hearing.

PASSAGE BIRD: A young hawk or falcon on its first fall migration.

RAPTOR [RAP-tur]: A term synonymous with BIRD OF PREY and applied to eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, owls, and the osprey. Scientists apply it to vultures as well.

SOAR: To glide without flapping the wings on thermals or updrafts.

STOOP: The wings-closed, high-velocity dive used by falcons to catch their prey from above.

TALON: The claw of a bird of prey.

TIERCEL or TERCEL [TERE-sul]: The male of a hawk or falcon. The term is based on the Latin word for "third," and stems from the fact that male hawks and falcons are usually smaller than the female, often by roughly one-third.

TOMIAL TOOTH: The second hook of a falcons beak. Falcons kill their prey with a bite to the neck, but they have no teeth. Instead, their beak has been modified with a second hook behind the first that fits into a notch in the lower beak, enabling the entire unit to work like a pair of scissors.

VULTURE: A group of large, carrion-eating birds which were all classified by scientists with the raptors. By 1994, though, scientist determined that the New World Vultures (those found in the Americas) are more closely related to storks and reclassified them in the stork family. Two species of New World Vultures occur in North America; the more common turkey vulture and the black vulture is rarely seen.