FALCONS are high speed hunters. Most of them specialise in catching other birds that are smaller than themselves by diving at them in a ‘stoop’, hitting the prey in the air and carrying it to the ground. They have long toes that can wrap around the prey and enlarged rough pads which grip the prey’s feathers when the toes curl round it. Their feet aren’t very powerful compared to other raptors but their legs are quite short and have built-in ‘shock absorbers to prevent them breaking from the impact.
One notable exception is the Kestrel. This little bird, although it is a true Falcon, has evolved into a specialist hunter of small mammals. Its ability to hover – even in still air – gives it an edge when hunting small rodents in rough grassland.
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