If you’ve ever seen the movie Jurassic Park, then you probably already have a mental image of what a “raptor” looks like. Would you believe there are real raptors flying the skies today? It’s true! Oh, and don’t believe everything you see in the movies…

The word “raptor” comes from the Latin word rapere, which means “to seize or take by force.” Raptor is a general term used informally to refer to all birds of prey.

Bird enthusiasts occasionally limit their use of the term “raptor” to refer to birds of prey who hunt during the day. This separates them from nocturnal birds of prey, like owls.

Birds of prey are those birds that hunt for food from the air. They have exceptional sight that allows them to spot prey from a great distance. In fact, birds of prey have the keenest eyesight in nature with rapid focus and superior depth perception.

Some examples of birds of prey include vultures, falcons, condors and eagles. They tend to have large curved beaks and sharp talons that are very powerful.

They use these weapons to catch, kill and tear off the flesh of their prey. Their talons allow them to pick up and carry prey great distances, while their sharp beaks are perfect for tearing off bite-sized pieces that easily fit in the mouth.

Most birds of prey hunt for vertebrates (animals with backbones) or other birds. Often, the prey can be quite large compared to the size of the bird. Most raptors, especially vultures and condors, also eat the carcasses of dead animals — called carrion.

Unfortunately, their predatory lifestyle puts raptors at the top of the food chain. This means that raptors are sometimes endangered species, because they struggle to survive when food is difficult to find.

So what about those dinosaur raptors that made Jurassic Park such a success? As it turns out, Velociraptors were indeed real dinosaurs. However, they didn’t look or behave exactly like the movie portrayed them.

Where the movie raptors had skin like lizards and were extremely smart, paleontologists would tell you that these types of dinosaurs — called dromaeosaurs — were much smaller (the size of children), about as smart as the average hummingbird and most certainly were covered in feathers.

Paleontologists have found fossilized remains of Velociraptor mongoliensis in Mongolia. From their study of these remains, they know that the moviemakers definitely used a little Hollywood magic to create a creature that was quite a bit different than the real-life dinosaurs that lived over 70 million years ago.

 

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    • Thanks for being the first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder, YuGiOhNinja! We like how you said today’s Wonder was a “raptor of a Wonder!” We think that was super clever! :-)

    • Hi there, Ethan! We’re so glad you visited today’s Wonder! You’re the second Wonder Friend to comment today, but we think that’s AWESOME! We’re super happy that you learned some new things about raptors! :-)

  1. My little 2 year old brother was trying to fly and now he’s knocking at the door saying, “birds come here.” He loves that video, and so did I!!!

    • That’s so GREAT that you shared today’s Wonder with your brother, Avery! We think it’s cute that he was asking the birds to come and talk to him…awesome personal connection! :-)

    • We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow and be surprised with the new Wonder of the Day®, Caroline! Thanks for exploring today’s Wonder about raptors and for leaving us a comment! :-)

    • WONDERing what tomorrow’s Wonder will be is all part of the FUN of visiting Wonderopolis, Tommy! We’re sure glad you were here today! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopils,
    Thank you for answering my response two days ago! Sometimes I go to this website and try to become the first one, but I sleep in late…so it usaully never works! I think tomorrow’s the wonder of the day will be about germs!

    • We always try to reply to EVERY comment from our Wonder Friends, Kate! It might not be until later in the day, or maybe the next day, but we will always try to reply! Thank you for being such a great Wonder Friend and leaving us comments to let us know what you learned or what you think the next day’s Wonder will be! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool video and wonder! A raptor is a kind of bird. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about the ocean.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • What a nice surprise to get TWO comments from our amazing Wonder Friend, Paige, yesterday! Thank you for letting us know a cool fact you learned about raptors and that you enjoyed the video for this Wonder! :-)

  4. The video was cool. I love birds because they’re pretty.

    thanks for another great wonder wonder what tomorrow’s wonder’s going to be

    • Hello, Hailey! We like birds, too! We left some cool links to other bird Wonders in our reply the comment above from Wonder Friend, Ellen. You should check them out, too, for some extra, awesome WONDERing about BIRDS! :-)

  5. You guys are cool. I am your biggest fan, and I love you guys so much. I read on wonderopolis all the time, and I can’t wait until tomorrow to see what you have planned. I bet it will be good. By the way, I love the video, too, it was cool to see the hawk flying and I love animals…….. I have 3 cats 1 dog and 2 turtles. I love my animals so much, I wish I can meet you guys in person so I can get an autograph. I will write to you guys almost every day so I can listen to what you have to say so PLEASE write back.

    • Thanks so much for leaving us this GREAT comment today, Mandy! We’re glad you explored today’s Wonder and liked the video! We’re happy to hear that you will try to visit Wonderopolis every day…we love learning new things here, too! :-)

  6. Wow, I thought that was amazing. I mean, I’ve never seen a bird do that. I think that they need to put more stuff on those birds.

    • We really liked learning cool new facts about raptors too, Julie! We are proud of you for doing such AWESOME Wondering with us this weekend! You are a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a raptor?
  • What is carrion?
  • Were there really dinosaurs called raptors?

Wonder Gallery

hawk attack_shutterstock_1941591Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to check out some real-life, modern raptors? Visit the Raptor Resource Project online to watch several different types of raptors via webcam.

When you’re finished, use your experience viewing real-life raptors to inspire you to create a picture of what you think a dinosaur raptor might have looked like over 70 million years ago. Give your dinosaur creation a unique name.

When your artwork is complete, share it with us. Email us your picture or post it to Facebook. We can’t wait to see what your dinosaur raptor looks like!

 

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Big Egg Mystery lesson, children will learn about the scientific process by exploring how a bird can sit on her eggs without breaking them.

 

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