Learn About Raptors

What is a raptor?

A raptor is a carnivorous (meat-eating) bird. All raptors share at least three main characteristics:

  • Keen eyesight
  • Eight sharp talons
  • A hooked beak

Raptors, also called birds of prey, have existed in some form for 50 to 75 million years. There are approximately 482 species of raptor worldwide, 304 diurnal (day-active) species and 178 nocturnal (night-active) species. This does not include the seven species of New World vultures.

Identify raptors

Find out more about raptor species found in North America, from how to spot them, to where they live, to what they eat. 

For help in identifying raptors, check out the Guide to Identification of Midwest Raptors.

raptor eyes

raptor beak

raptor talons

Are some raptors in danger of being extinct?

Through our research and conservation efforts, The Raptor Center helps understand emerging health concerns and issues for raptor populations. For the international conservation status of a particular species read the IUCN red list