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Predator Birds in Crete

Six species of predator birds are found in Crete, according to the Hellenic Ornithological Society.

Gypaetus (Gypaetus Barbatus)

Common Name: Kokkalas

It is the bird with the largest wingspan in Europe (270 cm) and body length ranging between 102 and 114 cm. Distinctive features of the adult include the off-white head and chest, square wings, black back, long tail, the long black beard and the white-yellow iris of the eye that bears a crimson ring around it. The head and chest in most cases look orange because this species has the habit of painting its wings by taking mud baths in red soil.

The main habitat of this bearded vulture is the en areas with sparse vegetation, medium to high altitude (600 to 3500 m), where it mainly seeks its food. The vulture is observed to fly alone or in pairs, although in areas where their population is high, such as in the highlands of Lesotho (South Africa), Ethiopia and the Himalayas, small groups of vultures are found feeding in the garbage even on the outskirts of villages. Its diet consists of 70-90 percent of the bones of livestock animals, mainly sheep and goats or small wild ungulates such as wild goats and wild sheep in natural mountain ecosystems. However, it also feeds on rodents and migratory birds that it finds dead in the snow.

Vulture (Gypsfulvus)

Other common names: Kanavos, Skara, Gypas, Thrasa

They are large and heavy predators with a wingspan of 260cm and a body length of 97 – 104cm. The feathers of the collar are the distinguishing feature between the adult (with white short feathers) and the young (with brown long feathers). But there are other differences between them; the adult has a white-gray head and neck, borwn to white-gray plumage, white-yellow beak, and brown-yellow iris. The young bird has a white head and neck, cinnamon plumage, longer fingers at the tips of its wings, and a brown iris.

The vulture feeds on the carcasses of medium or large livestock. It mainly prefers the soft parts of dead animals, showing a particular preference for entrails.

Golden Eagle

Other common names: Vitsila, Pnigara

It is the most powerful predator in Greece, with a wingspan of 185-220cm and body length of 75-90cm. When it flies, its golden yellow neck and long tail can be seen. The adult bird has a characteristic golden head and neck, its body and wings are colored uniformly dark below, while the wings are lighter above. There are also light colored stripes on the tail. At a young age, the Golden Eagle has a blackhead and neck, a dark body with white spots on the wings and a white band on the tail. Gradually, as the young eagle matures, the white areas darken.

Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus)

Other common names: Philadelphos, Stori, Skarovitsila

Although of medium size, this eagle with a wingspan of 145-165cm and a body length of 55-60cm is extremely strong and combative. The adult is black on top with a white back (white V between the wings), while below it has a black body and a white chest with vertical stripes. A black band can be seen on the tip of the tail. The young eagle differs because on the back it has a brownish-white color and billow it a cinnamon ribbed chest. The tail is also brown with light lines.

This eagle is distinguished for its speed in flight and is accustomed to hunting in pairs.

It feeds on medium-sized birds such as pheasants, wild pigeons, partridges, as well as small mammals such as weasels, mice and more rarely reptiles.

Petrite (Falcoperegrinus)

Other common name: Falconas

It is one of the fastest species of birds in the world and the most powerful species of hawk in Greece, with a wingspan of 90-115cm and a body length of 35-50cm. While in flight, it stands out from the pointed wings and the short tail that narrows at the edge. The adult has a blue-gray color on the top and horizontal stripes on the chest. All parts of its body that are not covered with feathers are yellow and the tail has a uniform color. At a young age, Petritis has a dark brown color on top and vertical streaks on the chest. The feathered parts of its body are gray, while the tail has a light-colored stripe on the edge. Petritis often flies in a straight line during active flight, gaining high speed (it can reach 400km/h). It feeds mainly in open areas, hunting small or medium-sized birds that it always catches in the air by ambushing them.

Black Falcon (Falcoeleonorae)

Other common names: Varvaki, Koustogerako, Thalassogerako, Falconi

The black falcon is a medium-sized hawk, with a wingspan of 84-103cm and a body length of 36-40cm. For Greece, it is a very important species since a very large percentage of its world population, probably reaching 80%, nests on rocky islands of our country.

When it perches, its wings appear to protrude from its tail. During the flight, the pointed wings and the long tail are distinguished, while it exhibits excellent flexibility in the air. Its delicate, piercing voice is also very characteristic.

The adult is found in two color phases: either completely black, or black on top and brown-red below, with streaks only on the chest. Before coming of age, the black falcon has a brown-black color on top and many brown streaks on the bottom.

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