The Accipitridae, one of the two major families within the orderAccipitriformes (the diurnalbirds of prey), are a family of small to large birds with strongly hooked bills and variable morphology based on diet. They feed on a range of prey items from insects to medium-sized mammals, with a number feeding on carrion and a few feeding on fruit. The Accipitridae have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found on all the world's continents (except Antarctica) and a number of oceanic island groups. Some species are migratory.
Many well-known birds, such as hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures are included in this group. The Osprey is usually placed in a separate family (Pandionidae), as is the Secretary bird (Sagittariidae), and the New World vultures are also usually now regarded as a separate family or order. Karyotype data indicated that the accipitrids hitherto analysed are indeed a distinct monophyletic group, but whether this group should be considered a family of the Falconiformes or one or several order(s) on their own is a question that is still to be resolved.
Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily via flight, using their keen senses, especially vision, and superb flying skills. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing flesh. In most cases, the females are considerably larger than the males. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere (meaning to seize or take by force) and may refer informally to all birds of prey, or specifically to the diurnal group. Because of their predatory lifestyle, often at the top of the food chain, they face distinct conservation concerns.
Many species of bird may be considered partly or exclusively predatory; however, in ornithology, the term "bird of prey" applies only to birds of the families listed below.