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Raptor vs raptor

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Photo by John Sykes, provided by Jon McGowan, used with permission.

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Here’s something you don’t see everyday: a female Northern (or Eurasian) sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus and male Common kestrel Falco tinnunculus, photographed together after (it seems) the hawk grabbed the kestrel as a potential prey item. The photo was taken by John Sykes in the Wick Fields area near Christchurch, Dorset, UK, and has been featured by Jon McGowan at The Natural Stuff. Whatever was going on, both birds flew off unharmed. Female sparrowhawks (larger than males) frequently prey on relatively large birds, including pigeons and magpies, and they’re not afraid to take on birds similar in size to themselves. When subduing such large prey, they grip and squeeze it with the talons, but they also start to dismember it (yes, while it’s still alive) with the bill (Fowler et al. 2009). In this case, it’s possible that the sparrowhawk made a mistake, and grabbed the kestrel thinking that it was a more easily dispatched potential prey item.

Photo © 2011 Rick Remington. Be sure to check out the whole sequence.

Or perhaps this was a bold, or experienced, sparrowhawk who thought, or even knew, that she could take on a kestrel and win. After all, remember that intraguild predation – predators killing predators – is common and ubiquitous across the natural world. There are many, many cases on record of raptors killing and eating members of other raptor species. Sparrowhawks are already documented kestrel predators, as are peregrines, goshawks, buzzards and hen harriers. Peregrines F. peregrinus have been observed killing short-toed eagles, sparrowhawks and other raptor species (Hammond & Pearson 1993). This article is not about owls, and I’m going off at a slight tangent here, but I just have to mention the incredible series of photos, taken by Rick Remington in Chicago, where a peregrine repeatedly swooped at a grounded, and clearly terrified, Snowy owl Bubo scandiacus. Some of the poses adopted by the owl were so remarkable that they’ve fooled people into thinking that they were looking at a person in an owl costume. You can see all the photos for yourself here.

Oh, and – one more thing. Unless you’re a bird phylogeny nerd, you’re probably imagining that the two species shown above are fairly close relatives. Several recent molecular studies indicate that falcons are not, in fact, close to other raptors (hawks, eagles, Old World vultures, New World vultures and secretarybirds). Rather, they belong in a clade with parrots and passerines (Ericson et al. 2006, Hackett et al. 2008, Suh et al. 2011), now called Eufalconimorphae. The morphological similarity present between falcons and the members of the hawk-eagle-vulture-secretarybird clade (now best termed Accipitriformes) is thus (presumably!) a striking case of convergence*, but it helps explain some of the otherwise weird features exhibited by falcons and not seen in those other raptors. Within Eufalconimorphae, parrots and passerines form Psittacopasserae.

* The possibility does exist that a ‘raptor-like ecomorph’ was primitive for the clade that includes Eufalconimorphae and kin, and Accipitriformes and kin.

Neornithine bird phylogeny recovered by Suh et al. (2011). (Falcons + (parrots + passerines)) = Eufalconimorphae.

Seriemas seem to be close relatives of Eufalconimorphae (Ericson et al. 2006, Hackett et al. 2008, Suh et al. 2011). You might like to think what this means for phorusrhacids.

Oh, and can everybody please stop using the word ‘raptor’ as a popular term for deinonychosaur, or dromaeosaurid? Admittedly, this rarely causes confusion, but it looks dumb and naive given that THE WORD RAPTOR IS ALREADY IN USE FOR ANOTHER GROUP OF ANIMALS. It would be like deciding to call sauropods ‘elephants’ or something.

Anyway, we’re here because I wanted to show you the photo that you’ve just seen at the very top of the article; it’s pretty exceptional and I hope you’re pleased to see it. For previous Tet Zoo articles on raptors, see…

And for articles on owls, see…

Refs – -

Ericson, P., Anderson, C., Britton, T., Elzanowski, A., Johansson, U., Kallersjo, M., Ohlson, J., Parsons, T., Zuccon, D., & Mayr, G. (2006). Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data and fossils Biology Letters, 2 (4), 543-547 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0523

Fowler, D. W., Freedman, E. A. & Scannella, J. B. 2009. Predatory functional morphology in raptors: interdigital variation in talon size is related to prey restraint and immobilisation technique. PLoS ONE 4(11): e7999. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007999

Hackett, S. J., Kimball, R. T., Reddy, S., Bowie, R. C. K., Braun, E. L., Braun, M. J., Cjojnowski, J. L., Cox, W. A., Han, K.-L., Harshman, J., Huddleston, C. J., Marks, B., Miglia, K. J., Moore, W. S., Sheldon, F. H., Steadman, D. W., Witt, C. C. & Yuri, T. 2008. A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history. Science 320, 1763-1768.

Hammond, N. & Pearson, B. 1993. Birds of Prey. Hamlyn, London.

Suh, A., Paus, M., Kiefmann, M., Churakov, G., Franke, F. A., Brosius, J., Kriegs, J. O. & Schmitz, J. 2011. Mesozoic retroposons reveal parrots as the closest living relatives of passerine birds. Nature Communications Aug 23;2:443. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1448.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Jon Baldur 6:41 am 04/26/2012

    This last winter there was a documented (photographs)incident of an Icelandic Gyrfalcon preying upon and eating another Gyrfalcon. This happened in Northern Iceland. I should be able to find the source if someone is interested.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Riggi 7:04 am 04/26/2012

    Well calling a sauropod an “elephant” would be a silly, terribile thing to say. But I don’t have a problem calling deinonychosaurs “raptors”. After all, raptors is not a natural grouping amongest birds, so it basically can be defined as different lineages of paravians that occupy large predatorary niches.

    Link to this
  3. 3. naishd 7:21 am 04/26/2012

    Gyrfalcons: it would be interesting to see that source, please do provide if it’s no trouble, thanks. I’ve been meaning to blog about gyrfalcons for a while since I was pretty taken by recent work showing that members of some populations effectively become ‘marine raptors’ for part of the year (resting on sea-ice, eating nothing but seabirds, never coming to land).

    The term ‘raptor’: sure, deinonychosaurs might be imagined as ‘predatory bird-type animals’ of a sort, I’ll give you that. But ‘raptor’ has been in use for a long time as the name for hawks, eagles and like birds. To me it seems dumb to ignore this and to now pretend that it’s a good word that can be applied to a different group. It’s not as if we NEEDED a new word for velociraptorines, dromaeosaurids, or whatever: remember – unlike the characters in the book Jurassic Park, none of us are living on an island with genetically reconstructed Mesozoic theropods. We do not need slick, catchy nicknames for these animals – they’re not familiar objects that we refer to constantly in casual conversation. And, come on, I can’t see that mainstreaming Crichton’s ideas any more than they already are is a good thing. Someone might shout me down for not crediting the dynamism and evolution of popular language, for not recognising popularisation and simplification, etc. Well, do you live on Isla Nublar?

    Darren

    Link to this
  4. 4. Dartian 7:33 am 04/26/2012

    Darren:
    ‘raptor’ has been in use for a long time as the name for hawks, eagles and like birds

    But, as you say in the main article, it has recently been shown that not all those birds are closely related. Doesn’t that then make it equally ‘wrong’ to refer to falcons (never mind owls) as ‘raptors’?

    Link to this
  5. 5. naishd 7:38 am 04/26/2012

    No, ‘raptor’ is a convenient non-taxonomic term for diurnal birds-of-prey: viz, hawk-like birds. I’m all for crediting the birdiness of Mesozoic non-avialan paravians, but they are not hawk-like birds-of-prey!

    Darren

    Link to this
  6. 6. David Marjanović 7:54 am 04/26/2012

    but it helps explain some of the otherwise weird features exhibited by falcons and not seen in those other raptors

    Like what? :-) You mention two in your Twitter feed, but that’s all I (now) know.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Andreas Johansson 8:22 am 04/26/2012

    The labels on the cladogram are too small to easily read, but there doesn’t seem to be any Strigiformes there. Where do they go nowadays?

    (BTW, only three pics and a handful of references: this, folks, is what a picture-of-the-day post by Darren looks like!)

    Link to this
  8. 8. naishd 10:22 am 04/26/2012

    David (comment 6): it’s long been stated that falcons are unusual compared to other raptors (by which I mean accipitriforms) in aspects of musculature, skeletal proportions, moult sequence, osteology, and eggshell form. Within recent decades, some authors have become convinced that these morphological differences demonstrate distinct origins for falcons relative to other raptor – most famously, Jollie (in a series of papers published in Evolutionary Theory the 1970s) argued that falcons were instead closer to owls, parrots, cuckoos and turacos.

    Anyways, “weird features exhibited by falcons and not seen in … other raptors” include the presence of a plantaris muscle (also in passerines), a small bony nostril (also in parrots), an ‘inflated’ ectethmoid (also in passerines), a notably small occipital condyle (also passerines), and a proportionally large hallux claw (also in parrots and passerines). Somewhat similar axes, where the transverse foramina and costal processes are absent, are also shared by falcons, parrots and passerines. Jollie refers to several pectoral characters that are present in falcons and not in other raptors, but I don’t have those papers with me now, nor do I have enough comparative material at hand to say much of use.

    Darren

    Link to this
  9. 9. naishd 10:32 am 04/26/2012

    Andreas (comment 7) – yes, this is a ‘picture of the day’ post :)

    Strigiforms: I guess we just wait for John Harshman to turn up. But recent work (Hackett et al. 2008) finds them close to a (coliiform + (trogon + Picocoraciae)) clade, with accipitriforms being the sister-group to (owls + (coliiforms + (trogons + Picocoraciae))). This is depicted in cartoon form here: owls are 22. The old name Dendrornithes might be applicable to this accipitriform, owl, mousebird clade.

    Darren

    Link to this
  10. 10. naishd 11:01 am 04/26/2012

    Hold on – let me correct what I said in comment 9. Hackett et al. (2008) found (owls + (coliiforms + (trogons + Picocoraciae))) to be the sister-group to seriemas + eufalconimorphs, and the name Dendrornithes (resurrected by Livezey & Zusi 2007) might be applied to this whole big lot: that is, Dendrornithes = the Picocoraciae lineage + the Eufalconimorphae lineage.

    UPDATE: I made a mistake – Hackett et al. (2008) recovered ((owls + coliiforms) + (trogons + Picocoraciae)).

    Darren

    Link to this
  11. 11. David Černý 11:40 am 04/26/2012

    Hackett et al. (2008) found (owls + (coliiforms + (trogons + Picocoraciae)))

    Actually, they found mousebirds to be a sister group to owls, not to the trogon/Picocoraciae clade.

    Dendrornithes = the Picocoraciae lineage + the Eufalconimorphae lineage.

    Even those two lineages have they own names now: Ericson (2012) came up with “Afroaves” for the Picocoraciae lineage and “Australaves”* for the Eufalconimorphae/Cariamae clade. They are (obviously) based on their respective hypothesized areas of origin, as reconstructed by a biogeographical analysis in the same paper.

    *Technically, he came up with “Australavis”, but that seems to be just a misuse of Latin. There is no explanation in the paper why he decided to go with the plural for Afroaves and the singular for “Australavis”.

    Ref:

    Ericson PGP 2012 Evolution of terrestrial birds in three continents: biogeography and parallel radiations. J Biogeogr 39(5): 813–24
    (free-access link)

    Link to this
  12. 12. naishd 11:50 am 04/26/2012

    David Č (comment 11) – thanks for the correction. At least I showed the hypothesised owl + coliiform clade correctly in the cartoon cladogram I linked to. And thanks for the news on the new Ericson paper. Hm, I can’t say that Afroaves and ‘Australavis’ (or whatever) are sensible names for those clades – in fact, I dislike them a lot.

    Darren

    Link to this
  13. 13. vdinets 12:07 pm 04/26/2012

    Darren (#5): OK, I’ll call shrikes and skuas “raptors” from now on ;-)
    I wonder how one can fly away unharmed after being in a hawk’s talons… perhaps there were puncture wounds that went unnoticed.
    Anyway, to think about it, keas look remarkably similar to Andean caracara species.

    Link to this
  14. 14. John Harshman 12:52 pm 04/26/2012

    You rang? I would like to point out one possible reason for the confusion about the relationships of owls is that there is no support for any resolution. They’re members of “Land Birds”, and they aren’t members of Eufalconimorphae or Picocoraciae. That’s about it, so far. Their attachment to mousebirds in Hackett et al. is just what the highest-likelihood tree shows, but there’s no bootstrap support, and no other study has found support, that I know of, for any better relationships than that.

    Suh et al. did include an owl; in the figure it’s Asio, right below Cariama. Note that it’s nowhere near Urocolius, the mousebird. And in fact there’s some data in that paper to suggest that colies are the sister group of all other “Land Birds”. The near-total lack of resolution within “Land Birds” is a limitation of transposon studies: they must be targeted at particular nodes, or linear sequences of backbone nodes. In this case it’s transposon insertions shared with passerines, and all that can be constructed is a ladder with passerines at the tip. The interrelationships of anything off that backbone aren’t tested, and would need a whole new study of transposon insertions shared with some other taxon. If you’re interested in owls, you have to target transposons present in owls. And it’s good to have a whole genome to search for candidates before you start. There’s a passerine genome available, but no owl genome so far.

    Link to this
  15. 15. kelecable 2:17 pm 04/26/2012

    I am glad to hear more news regarding the raptor taxonomy. I remember the story that found falcons were closer to parrots from a couple years ago (I think), but never heard more about it, or if it was even further confirmed. Now I know there is now Eufalconimorphae!

    Link to this
  16. 16. Therizinosaurus 5:12 pm 04/26/2012

    Thanks for the link to Erickson (2012). He also creates the clade Cantiomimus for the parrot-passerine group. Never thought I’d see the day that I was grateful for Psittacopasserae existing…

    As odd as Australavis and Cantiomimus are for non-genus-level clades, they aren’t covered by the ICZN, so their spelling can’t be officially emmended.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Bret Newton 7:23 pm 04/26/2012

    I have actually seen this happen in real life. At our zoo, our Egyptian Vulture (a pinioned bird) took down a wild Red-Tailed Hawk and held it captive for at least 20 minutes. A large pile of feathers was left the next day.

    Link to this
  18. 18. John Harshman 8:41 pm 04/26/2012

    However, as Australavis and Cantiomimus (ugh) are junior synonyms of Eufalconimorphae and Psittacopasserae (lesser ugh) respectively, there’s no reason to adopt them. This is the first time in my life I’ve wished that George Sangster were quicker on the draw.

    Link to this
  19. 19. Therizinosaurus 9:17 pm 04/26/2012

    Australavis isn’t a junior synonym of Eufalconomorphae because the former contains cariamids as well. That was such a painful sentence to write…

    Link to this
  20. 20. naishd 9:39 pm 04/26/2012

    Vlad (comment 13) writes “I wonder how one can fly away unharmed after being in a hawk’s talons… perhaps there were puncture wounds that went unnoticed.”

    Notice that the hawk is not holding the falcon’s body. I think that they were holding each others feet and/or lower legs. So, probably nothing more than superficial damage.

    Darren

    Link to this
  21. 21. CS Shelton 10:56 pm 04/26/2012

    Differences in falcons: How about color? Kestrels are the only birds of prey I can think of with some blue in their plumage, though obviously not as intense as the colors in some Psittacopasserae.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Andreas Johansson 2:04 am 04/27/2012

    @Darren & John: Thanks. :)

    Link to this
  23. 23. MMartyniuk 6:50 am 04/27/2012

    “I’m all for crediting the birdiness of Mesozoic non-avialan paravians, but they are not hawk-like birds-of-prey!”

    Avisaurids, on the other hand… ;)

    Good point though. I don’t see anybody referring to phorusrhacids as “raptors” either.

    Link to this
  24. 24. kattatogaru 7:10 am 04/27/2012

    Darren – re: “It’s not as if we NEEDED a new word for velociraptorines, dromaeosaurids, or whatever: remember – unlike the characters in the book Jurassic Park, none of us are living on an island with genetically reconstructed Mesozoic theropods”. Hmmm, speak for yourself (strokes large white cat). I did try to get my animal control team to shout: “velociraptorines, incoming!!!” but they inexplicably found it too time consuming and – disappointingly – reverted to “Raptors! Duck!!!” after the 17th fatality. Now, I must get back to work on preening my Yutyrannus’s display crest…

    Link to this
  25. 25. naishd 7:18 am 04/27/2012

    “Avisaurids, on the other hand…” (comment 23).

    And – - they would be non-avialan paravians, would they? :)

    As for “Raptors! Duck!!!” (comment 24) – well, being attacked by raptors is bad enough, but ducks are badass.

    Darren

    Link to this
  26. 26. Dartian 7:59 am 04/27/2012

    Bret:
    I have actually seen this happen in real life. At our zoo, our Egyptian Vulture (a pinioned bird) took down a wild Red-Tailed Hawk and held it captive for at least 20 minutes. A large pile of feathers was left the next day.

    Have a look at this video clip. It’s a segment from the Spanish wildlife documentary series El hombre y la Tierra from the 1970′ies, made by Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente (the same TV series that featured the now-famous footage of a golden eagle taking a young ibex and flying away with it; Darren has blogged about that in Tet Zoo Ver 2). Towards the end of the video (starting at ca. 9:40), a goshawk Accipiter gentilis catches and kills a booted eagle Aquila pennata! The situation is pretty obviously ‘staged’ and therefore slightly unnatural (de la Fuente was into falconry big time, and the goshawk, at least, is certainly a trained individual), but it’s still a pretty impressive feat of predation by the goshawk.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Deinocogitus 10:41 am 04/27/2012

    Hola, Jerzy here again.

    Raptors killing raptors are not uncommon, although nice pictures are rare. Goshawk is especially notorious and was recorded predating other Goshawks and Common Buzzards.

    I even read the theory that male Sparrowhawk hunts in more closed forests partially to avoid risk being predated by his female. Not impossible in these attack-first-and-think-later species.

    Link to this
  28. 28. Deinocogitus 10:42 am 04/27/2012

    Raptors! Duck! – is this a history of mihirung systematics?

    Link to this
  29. 29. Deinocogitus 11:10 am 04/27/2012

    @large-scale bird phylogeny.

    Different studies there usually disagree, and 1) most ornithologists stick to traditional families and orders 2) people are afraid of using tentative phylogeny, because the paper will become impossible to understand after few years, 3) we need not more studies, but better studies, maybe full-genome studies 4) I am not sure if these problems are not themselves a scientific finding that many assumptions of phylogenetic studies are invalid.

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  30. 30. BrianL 1:04 pm 04/27/2012

    Though only tangentially related, I can’t let this discussion of Psittacopasserae go without mentioning a little pet theory of mine. This concerns the so-called zygodactylids of the Paleogene of Europe and the Miocene of Africa. These enigmatic birds are usually considered zygodactylous relatives of passeriforms. This should sound rather familiar by now.

    My pet theory is that these birds are actually stem-parrots that had not evolved typical psittaciform skeletal features, apart from their feet. Zygodactyly evolving once in Psittacopasserae (and Eufalconimorphae in general) seems a lot more plausible to me than the alternatives:
    1. Psittacopasserae being plesiomorphically zygodactylous, with zygodactyly being derived relative to falconids and Cariamae, with passeriforms reversing to anisodactyly.
    2. Zygodactyly evolving twice in Psittacopasserae, with both zygodactylids and psittaciforms doing so independently.
    Stem-psittaciform zygodactylids would also more or less conveniently link the morphology of crown psittaciforms to their common ancestor with passeriforms, via the likes of quercypsittids, ‘psittacopids’, pseudasturids and then zygodactylids.

    Of course, all of this should be considered in view of crown psittaciforms being the highly morphologically derived survivors of what appears to have been a far more morphologically and ecologically diverse clade in the Paleogene (and perhaps beyond).

    All that being said, are zygodactylids even considered a valid clade these days? If so, is my idea of them being stem-psittaciforms very close to the Psittacopasserae node one likely to be correct?

    Link to this
  31. 31. Hydrarchos 4:17 pm 04/27/2012

    Goshawk killing Booted Eagle is no surprise at all to me, considering that a) the Goshawk is so called because they were used by falconers to hunt *geese*, b) Aq. pennata is a very small (the smallest?) Aquila while Ac. gentilis is a very big (the biggest?) Accipiter, making them very close to each other in size (if anything, I’d guess that the Goshawk, at least when female, is probably on average heavier), and c) in general, Accipiter spp. are probably among the toughest and nastiest of all tetrapods for their size. Seriously, they’re up there with mustelids (in fact, it wouldn’t be far off base to call them the mustelids of the avian world, if Accipitriformes is roughly analogous to Carnivora – Goshawk vs Booted Eagle is kind of like a badger or wolverine vs a dog of the same size).

    Likewise, I’m fairly sure that a Sparrowhawk would beat a Kestrel in a fight very easily (unless, *maybe*, the falcon had a drop on it from above). I guess this one gave up because it thought actually killing the Kestrel was too much hassle compared to easier prey like pigeons, jackdaws, thrushes etc.

    The owl vs falcon pictures are pretty amazing… although people thinking it was a human in an owl suit shows how poor most people’s grasp is of scale and perspective (relevant to a hell of a lot of cryptid photos).

    (Oh, another thing I just remembered about accipitrids and intraguild predation… I’ve heard it said that the confusingly similar plumage patterns of honey buzzards (Pernis spp.) and “proper” buzzards (in the European sense of that word, meaning Buteo spp.) may actually be Batesian mimicry to deter predation by Goshawks… although a Goshawk would probably still more often than not beat any Buteo, at least as easily as it could beat a Booted Eagle, although admittedly probably with a bit more difficulty than the pretty weedy and non-predatory Pernis.)

    Link to this
  32. 32. vdinets 6:46 pm 04/27/2012

    Hydrarchos: considering that Accipiters are largely ambush hunters, perhaps felids would be a closer analogy.

    Link to this
  33. 33. kattatogaru 7:16 pm 04/27/2012

    vdinets: felids are relative wimps compared to mustelids. Pound for pound I’m backing the badger.

    Link to this
  34. 34. kattatogaru 7:21 pm 04/27/2012

    Deinocogitus: We have a mihirung pen in the north of the Island (our growing Cenozoic collection). And I can confirm that they are pretty much omnivorous, they will eat both cucumbers and wayward henchmen with equal gusto. Often together.

    Link to this
  35. 35. John Harshman 7:49 pm 04/27/2012

    The only phylogenetic analysis I can think of that incorporated zygodactylids was by Gerald Mayr, and he found them to be the sister group of Passeriformes. However, I don’t recall whether he used any parrots in the analysis, and I don’t have it handy.

    Mayr, G. 2008. Phylogenetic affinities of the enigmatic avian taxon Zygodactylus based on new material from the early Oligocene of France. J. Systematic Palaeontology 6:33-44.

    Link to this
  36. 36. Strangetruther 10:55 pm 04/27/2012

    Deleted.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Dartian 3:17 am 04/28/2012

    Hydrarchos:
    Goshawk killing Booted Eagle is no surprise at all to me

    Perhaps not, but my main intention with posting that link was to show an instance where raptor-on-raptor predation has actually been caught on film (even if it’s under somewhat manipulated circumstances).

    the Goshawk is so called because they were used by falconers to hunt *geese*

    It’s called that in English, you mean. In some other languages, the vernacular name of Accipiter gentilis means ‘pigeon hawk’ or ‘chicken hawk’. I’m not sure about the etymology behind its German name, Habicht; does it have something to do with ‘hare’ (‘Hase‘ in German)? David M., help me out here, bitte schön.

    I’d guess that the Goshawk, at least when female, is probably on average heavier

    It is; about twice as heavy, in fact.

    However, attacking another raptor, even a considerably smaller one, isn’t risk-free. For example, there is a case on record where a goshawk was killed by a tawny owl Strix aluco that it was trying to prey on (Mikkola, 1983). The owl managed to sink its claws into the hawk’s chest, killing it. (However, the owl was so badly injured itself that the human observer who found the pair decided to put it out of its misery.)

    “Accipiter spp. are probably among the toughest and nastiest of all tetrapods for their size. Seriously, they’re up there with mustelids

    Goshawk vs mustelid, you say? Have a look at this footage, then. (Warning: the video is slightly brutal.) It was filmed in Norway (note, incidentally, the goshawk’s name in Norwegian – hønsehauk – which means ‘chicken hawk’), and the intended victim is an American mink Neovison vison (which is an introduced species in Norway). According to the narration, the mink escaped alive after a struggle that lasted 20 minutes.

    Reference:
    Mikkola, H. 1983. Owls of Europe. T & A D Poyser, Calton.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Dartian 3:59 am 04/28/2012

    Kattatogaru:
    felids are relative wimps compared to mustelids

    Wimps or not, try to imagine how that goshawk vs mink fight would have played out if it had been a cat instead of a mink; the felid’s claws would have made a huge difference. The goshawk would be lucky to survive the encounter.

    Link to this
  39. 39. Andreas Johansson 4:32 am 04/28/2012

    I’m not sure about the etymology behind its German name, Habicht; does it have something to do with ‘hare’ (‘Hase‘ in German)?

    It looks suspiciously like it’s rather something to do with “hawk”.

    Cf also the entry for “hawk” in the Online Etymological Dictionary:

    c.1300, hauk, earlier havek (c.1200), from O.E. hafoc (W. Saxon), heafuc (Mercian), heafoc, from P.Gmc. *habukaz (cf. O.N. haukr, O.S. habuc, M.Du. havik, O.H.G. habuh, Ger. Habicht “hawk”), from a root meaning “to seize,” from PIE *kap- “to grasp” (cf. Rus. kobec “a kind of falcon;” see capable). Transferred sense of “militarist” attested from 1962.

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  40. 40. Dartian 5:06 am 04/28/2012

    Andreas:
    It looks suspiciously like it’s rather something to do with “hawk”.

    Hm, yeah, so it seems. I was just thinking that it might have been something prey-related along the lines of the sparrowhawk’s German name (Sperber – which roughly means ‘sparrow-catcher’). Oh well, live and learn.

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  41. 41. David Marjanović 8:12 am 04/28/2012

    And – – they would be non-avialan paravians, would they? :)

    No. Avisauridae belongs to Enantiornithes.

    @large-scale bird phylogeny.

    1) consensus is increasing; 2) there’s nothing tentative about transposon insertions, except for incomplete lineage sorting; 3) Darren listed morphological support for Eufalconimorphae* – I had no idea there was any!

    * Horrible name. Remember, the PhyloCode is not yet implemented, so you can come up with something better and try to make people stick to it. – Enlarged hallux claws: also present in accipitrids. Or do you mean relative to the claws on the 2nd toes? Those are very large in accipitrids, too; I don’t know about other birds of prey.

    In some other languages, the vernacular name of Accipiter gentilis means ‘pigeon hawk’ or ‘chicken hawk’.

    In addition to plain Habicht, German has Hühnerhabicht.

    Cf also the entry for “hawk” in the Online Etymological Dictionary:

    I figured it was a case of [w]-[v] confusion, but I didn’t know it went in this direction.
    Other examples where German b or g corresponds to English w:
    yellow – gelb (the y-g correspondence is regular)
    fallow – falb
    borrow – borgen
    bow – biegen, (ver)beugen, Bogen, Bug, Verbeugung…
    I suppose sparrow – Sperber must be such a case, too, though “sparrow” alone is Spatz
    and then there’s Old High German far(a)wa and araweiz turning into Farbe (“colour”) and Erbse (“pea”).
    Note how almost all of these examples have l or r in front of the consonant in question.

    from a root meaning “to seize,” from PIE *kap- “to grasp”

    Oh, so it’s related to “have”!!!

    The final -t in the German version may be, I guess, from analogy to the adjective ending -icht or perhaps from the extra-strange plural ending -t that has fossilized in a few words (Hüfte, pl. Hüften – hip).

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  42. 42. naishd 8:25 am 04/28/2012

    David said “No. Avisauridae belongs to Enantiornithes.”

    I know, I was joking. But you already knew that, right?

    Darren

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  43. 43. Rdeeg 11:48 am 04/28/2012

    Re raptor vs raptor, I can support Darren’s statement re it being common. In the past 2 seasons I’ve twice seen a falconer’s passage red-tailed hawk kill a barred owl (I’m in USA).

    Link to this
  44. 44. llewelly 1:39 pm 04/28/2012

    With respect to owls occasionally looking strangely human, Joe Nickell has argued at length the Mothman sightings are probably best explained as barred owl sightings.

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  45. 45. David Marjanović 6:58 am 04/29/2012

    I know, I was joking. But you already knew that, right?

    I didn’t. Written sarcasm can be difficult to detect.

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  46. 46. Gwen! 10:15 pm 04/29/2012

    I can think of several examples of “misnamed” critters, especially among birds, but the worst would be thylacines. Known as Tasmanian tigers or marsupial wolves, despite obviously being neither.

    At least ‘raptor’ was a part of the animal’s actual name, although Velociraptor is abused all throughout popular media anyways. The best I can say about it is that calling them raptors isn’t much worse than all the other problems with people using the full name, when they’re usually referring to something else entirely, like Deinonychus, Utahraptor, etc.

    Despite being extinct, though, they do still crop up in conversation enough to make using “dromaeosaurid” or “dromaeosaur” awfully tedious after a while.

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  47. 47. David Marjanović 6:53 am 05/1/2012

    Other examples where German b or g corresponds to English w:

    Fowl. Has a g in all other Germanic languages, AFAIK.

    Link to this
  48. 48. AndreaCau 8:05 am 05/1/2012

    In Italian, the “raptor” name has been used after the Jurassic Park mania just for dromaeosaurs, since the avian (true) raptors are named “rapaci” (from Latin, rapax, rapacis). At the same time, I’ve many times written and spoken against the use of that term, being “Dromaeosauridae” perfect with no need for an English pop neologism.
    If you need a new pop term for Dromaeosaurids, call them as “sickle-clawed”.

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  49. 49. Hai~Ren 1:24 pm 05/1/2012

    Hydrarchos: (Oh, another thing I just remembered about accipitrids and intraguild predation… I’ve heard it said that the confusingly similar plumage patterns of honey buzzards (Pernis spp.) and “proper” buzzards (in the European sense of that word, meaning Buteo spp.) may actually be Batesian mimicry to deter predation by Goshawks… although a Goshawk would probably still more often than not beat any Buteo, at least as easily as it could beat a Booted Eagle, although admittedly probably with a bit more difficulty than the pretty weedy and non-predatory Pernis.)

    Interestingly enough, the Oriental or crested honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) of temperate and tropical Asian forests is supposedly a mimic of various hawk-eagles (Nisaetus spp.) found within its range, with the same purpose of warding off attacks from larger raptors.

    I find one subspecies of Oriental honey buzzard in particular to be quite interesting: torquatus of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo, is supposed to be a mimic of Wallace’s hawk-eagle (Nisaetus nanus), but there is actually a less common colour morph of this subspecies (known as the ‘Tweeddale morph’) that is a close mimic of another species, Blyth’s hawk-eagle (Nisaetus alboniger).

    I’ve been wondering about the genetic basis behind such variation, and whether there is any breeding between individuals from both colour morphs, or whether there is any form of reproductive isolation.

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  50. 50. Chasmaporthetes 4:03 pm 05/1/2012

    2008 rounding a curve on a dirt road in the Palouse near the Snake River in Eastern Washington, I encountered a golden eagle eating a red tailed hawk.

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  51. 51. Wanda888 1:58 pm 03/31/2013

    I know this thread died a long time ago, but I have a real-world example of people being confused by the use of the word “raptor.” I was teaching an introductory college biology class, and I was talking about the open-field test for anxiety in rats. I said something like, “Rats prefer to stay near the walls of the enclosure instead of in the open center, because that way they aren’t as visible to predators like cats and raptors.” The students all looked at me like I had two heads. Then I said, “You know, birds of prey?” They all laughed. It turns out they thought I had meant the dinosaurs.

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