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A


Making a Home strange noise comes from a crack in the


cliff face. It’s a high-pitched whine. Something is complaining. Several other voices join in. T ey all have the same complaint. T ey’re kestrel chicks, and they’re hungry. T eir mother circles above their hidden nest.


She calls out to soothe them: Klee, klee. She’s coming, but not before catching something for them to eat. It doesn’t take long for her to spot prey. Even


from high in the sky, the mother kestrel can see a mouse moving on the ground. She swoops down and grabs the mouse in her talons. Her claws pierce the mouse, killing it. She returns to the nest to feed the mouse to


her hungry chicks. But they’re still hungry, and she has to hunt again. In less than a month, these chicks will take


their first flight. Aſt er that, they will hunt on their own. T ey won’t need their mother. For now though, they cannot survive without her.


Birds of Prey


Kestrels are raptors, or birds of prey. A bird of prey eats meat. It has a hooked beak for tearing its food. It kills with its feet. Its talons can snatch fish from the water, strike birds out of the air, and grab animals off the ground. About 500 species of raptors live throughout


the world. Among them are eagles, vultures, hawks, falcons, and owls. Raptors make their homes in nearly every


type of habitat. T ey live in frozen tundras and scorching deserts. T ey also live in dense forests and bustling cities. Like lions and tigers, raptors are top


predators. T is means they hunt other creatures, but not much hunts them. Other raptors and humans are their only predators. Yet when baby raptors are born, they’re


helpless. Raptor chicks don’t know how to hunt. T ey can’t fly. T ey can’t survive without their parents. Raptor parents teach them everything they need to know to survive and thrive.


4 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER


For raptors, parenting begins with finding or building a nest. Most raptors look for a safe place that’s high and out of reach of predators. A raptor nest might be a small hole in a tree.


It could also be a large structure made of sticks. It could even be the ledge of an office building. A few kinds of raptors build their nests on


the ground. Some kinds of raptors don’t build their own nests. Instead, they take over old nests built by other birds. Many raptor nests are made of sticks. Bald


eagles are especially good at building this type of nest. Both male and female eagles gather large sticks. T e eagles wedge the sticks between a tree’s


trunk and branches to form the outside of the nest. T en they fill the nest with weeds and line the middle with grass, dry moss, and feathers. Building a nest like this takes years. T e


birds must carry and place each piece. Every year, the eagles leave their nest aſt er they have raised their chicks. When they return the next year, they add more to it. Over time, a bald eagle’s nest grows. One nest was 2.9 m wide and 6 m deep. It was heavy, weighing 2 metric tons. Once she is ready, the female lays her eggs.


Eagles have small clutches of only one to three eggs. Other raptors, like snowy owls, may lay as many as 14 eggs.


Most raptors, like this sea eagle, have a hooked beak for tearing food.


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