Frequently Asked Questions

What is a raptor?
Raptors are “birds of prey” – meat-eating birds that hunt for their food.
What adaptations does a bird have that makes it a raptor?
There are three main characteristics all raptors share. They are: sharp eyesight, strong feet with sharp talons, a hooked, sharp beak.
What are the two main groups of raptors?
Diurnal raptors and nocturnal raptors. Diurnal raptors hunt during the day and include eagles, hawks, falcons and kites. Nocturnal raptors hunt at night, and include most owls.
How many species of raptors are there?
There are 320 species of diurnal raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, kites, harriers and osprey) worldwide. There are 71 species of eagles and 200 species of owls worldwide. In the United States, there are 34 diurnal raptor species and 19 species of owls.
How many species of eagles are there in Alaska?
There are two species – bald and golden eagles – found in the United States, including Alaska. Occasionally, Steller’s sea eagles have been sighted in Alaska, but they usually are out of their range, as they are not indigenous to the state.
Are birds of prey intelligent?
Birds of prey have very strong instincts and are very good hunters. Each has his own personality, just as people do.
Can a raptor turn its head all the way around?
Owls can turn their head ¾ of the way around (270 degrees). This is because they have 14 vertebrae that are loosely connected, making their necks more flexible (humans, for example, have only seven vertebrae in their necks.) Eagles also have fourteen vertebrae in their necks, and can turn their heads about 210 degrees.
Do raptors mate for life?
Raptors form lasting pair bonds and are considered monogamous – which means they have one mate. However, researchers are working to determine whether it’s actually the mate or the nest site that holds the strongest loyalty. Both birds may be strongly bonded to a nest site where they have had success in breeding, and, as a result, both birds return to that site year after year and mate with each other. Each season the pair bond is reestablished. If one of the pair dies, the other often will take a new mate.
What are the two main groups of raptors?
Diurnal raptors and nocturnal raptors. Diurnal raptors hunt during the day and include eagles, hawks, falcons and kites. Nocturnal raptors hunt at night, and include most owls.
Can birds get diseases from humans and vice versa?
No. There are diseases that can be transmitted from birds to people, especially if a person has a compromised immune system. These include salmonellosis, aspergillosis and psittacosis. Birds who come to the Alaska Raptor Center with these diseases are kept in isolation, away from contact with humans.
What is the punishment for killing an eagle or for possessing parts (including feathers) of an eagle illegally?
The Bald Eagle Protection Act authorizes a maximum criminal fine of $100,000 and up to five years in prison per offense.
How many feathers does a bald eagle have?
The bald eagle has approximately 7,000 feathers..
Are there other raptor centers elsewhere?
Yes, there are raptor centers located throughout North America. In Alaska, the Alaska Raptor Center is the primary treatment center for bald eagles. Most care centers are listed online.  Use your favorite search engine to find a raptor rehabilitation facility in your area.
Is there a bounty on eagles in Alaska?
Until 1952, there was a bounty on bald eagles that ranged from $.50 to $2.00 per bird. This was put in place because eagles were thought to compete with fishermen. During the bounty years, more than 100,000 bald eagles were turned in, but even with this kind of persecution, the Alaskan population of bald eagles never has been endangered.
How did bald eagles become endangered in the U.S.?
In the lower 48, DDT, heavy metal poisoning and loss of habitat nearly wiped out bald eagle populations. By the time DDT was banned in 1972, there were fewer than 450 breeding pairs left in the continental United States. The bald eagle was added to the Endangered Species List in 1978 and was removed from that list and downlisted to threatened in July 1999. Now, the bald eagle population is estimated to be about 100,000, with half of those found in Alaska.
What happens to the eagles (and other birds) that can't be released at your Center?
Some non-releasable bald eagles are placed in captive breeding facilities around the country. The offspring of these eagles then are released to help restore wild populations. Other non-releasable birds are placed in zoos and other educational organizations to help educate the public about raptors.
What are some common injuries treated at the Alaska Raptor Center?
Common injuries of our patients include broken wings and other bones, gunshot wounds and poisonings.
How do these injuries typically happen?
About 85% of the injuries we treat are due to the intervention of man. Most injuries are caused by collisions with power lines, cars and other man-made objects. Birds may swallow poisonous chemicals at dumps and those used on lawns and gardens, or someone may have left fishing line and tackle for them to get tangled in.
How can these injuries be avoided?
By teaching people about these birds, we hope to let people know how they can help prevent these injuries.
Why is it important for us to find homes for eagles that can't be released?
Eagles who can’t return to the wild can help repopulate the species and teach others about conservation by being placed in breeding facilities and other educational centers.
What should you NOT do if you see a baby bird that has fallen from the nest?
Do not pick him up and take him home! Don’t feed him. His parents still may care for him, and it is very important to give that baby bird the chance to be with his natural parents. Taking him away from his parents can result in that bird becoming imprinted on humans – bonding to humans instead of his natural wild parents. An imprinted bird cannot survive in the wild.
What can you do to help an injured or sick bird?
You can stand back and watch him. See if his mom or dad comes back to care for him – if they don’t, call someone to help.
Who in your community can you call to get help for the bird?
You can call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a local raptor center, a zoo, a veterinarian or an environmental park.
Why is it so important to preserve wildlife?
We need to preserve wildlife so that future generations may enjoy all the wonderful birds and animals that we enjoy today. We all are connected by a food chain. For example, mice actually consume about 1/5 of what a human eats in a year, so it is very important that we have raptors to help control the mice populations, as well as the populations of other small rodents.