Missouri's Raptors

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 10, 2010

crests, coats of arms and flags around the world. Images of raptors appear in relics from the civilizations of the Aztecs and Romans, and in ancient Zimbabwe, Egypt and numerous regions of the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Many Native Americans continue traditions of using raptor images and artifacts in ceremonies to invoke the spirit and power of these exceptional hunters.

Why have raptors figured so prominently in human history? Being large and active during the day, raptors are noticeable. Because raptors spend considerable time quietly stalking prey, either by soaring or perching in trees, people have had time to study them. Their calls are loud and simple and immediately capture attention.

Beyond their regal stature and strength, something more primal attracts us to raptors. Like humans, raptors are top predators. We respect their keen purpose and focus, their hunting prowess, their speed and grace.

Raptor FAQs

Will hawks eat my pets? This happens occasionally, but is unlikely, especially if you keep your pets close to home and don’t allow them free run of the outdoors. Sometimes a hawk—especially an immature one—will swoop toward a dog or cat then veer away, realizing that the pet is too large to take as prey.

If we want to protect songbirds and game birds, shouldn’t we get rid of some raptors? No. The greatest threat to songbirds and game birds is destruction or degradation of habitat, not natural predators. Free-ranging and feral cats, which are non-native predators, are a far greater threat than raptors. Killing raptors could actually hurt populations of birds since raptors help control rodents and other small mammals that prey on ground-nesting birds. Moreover, it is illegal to kill any raptor.

Why is it illegal to keep a hawk feather or an eagle feather that I found in the woods? It would be impossible to prove that the feather—or any other raptor body part—you found did not come from an illegally taken bird. The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which originated between Canada and the U.S. in 1916 to protect migratory birds from “indiscriminate slaughter” by market hunters and others, protects more than 800 species of birds, including raptors.

What should I do if I find an injured hawk or eagle? You can leave it where you found it and let nature take its course. You can also call your local Missouri Department of Conservation office for information about local raptor rehabilitators. These are licensed rehabbers who

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