Falcons and eagles hunt primarily by sight. Their eyes operate at extremely high resolution – buzzards have five times as many cone receptors in their retina as we do. If our eyes were scaled up to the same relative proportions as an owl’s, they would be the size of oranges!
Many raptors can see beyond visible light, into the ultraviolet. Kestrels use this to hunt, because rodent urine actually reflects UV light. Raptors have good hearing too, particularly the owls. Barn owls can attack in complete darkness, guided only by the sound of their scurrying prey as they swoop in, while great grey owls can hear a lemming under 0.3 metres (a foot) of snow.
Most raptors have almost no sense of smell, but New World vultures are an exception. The scent of rotting meat has been added to gas supplies in North America because Turkey vultures will detect leaks in pipelines by circling high above the spot.
To learn more about all the incredible animals on our planet, why not visit our AnimalAnswers website – from the makers of How It Works.