Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Published in Prairie Fire 5:11 (November 2011), pp. 12-14. Copyright © 2011 Paul A. Johnsgard.


Nebraska is a regular host to 17 species of hawks, as well as two eagles and eight owls. Collectively, all these impressive-looking birds are known as “raptors,” which refers to their strong, sharply decurved and pointed beaks, their sharp, curved talons and their associated predatory abilities. Hawk and eagles are often called “diurnal raptors,” since they all hunt during daylight hours, whereas most of Nebraska’s owls hunt at night and are described as nocturnal raptors. But few biological statements lack exceptions, and some owls such as the burrowing owl are daytime-hunters, and some such as the great homed owl hunt mostly during twilight and dawn. As a result, one or more types of hawks, eagles or owls are likely to be actively hunting at any hour of day or night, and few of Nebraska animals up to the size of a deer or pronghom fawn can be considered safe from being detected and attacked by some raptor, owing to their remarkable eyesight or hearing.

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