... blog post:
Birds of prey, raptors and owls, same but different? Well, in modern usage terms yes but in strict scientific classification terms no. Which is all very sloppy and confusing and is the source of continuing fierce debate amongst the birding fraternity.
So the owls are in the order strigiformes, while the diurnal birds of prey (the so called raptors) i.e. the eagles, hawks, falcons etc. are in the orders accipitriformes and falconiformes. Therefore, owls are not at all raptors. Indeed Owls hunt by night and falconiforms and accipitriforms by day just to add to the differentiation.
However in modern usage the term 'raptor' is used interchangeably for the overarching term 'bird of prey' these days which includes both strigiforms, accipitriformes and falconiformes. Thus in many eyes owls are indeed seen as raptors even though they aren't related. Confused? Well I am for one.
By now I was beginning to wonder what a raptor was if indeed there ever was truly such a thing or if it crept into modern consciousness because of the dreaded velociraptor of Jurassic Park fame?
Well, the name seems to originally have related specifically as a short hand term for eagles, hawks and falcons etc. when they were together in their historical combined single classification of falconiforms before it was split in two. It is also used by palaeontologists as a shortened form for types of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs, especially velociraptors and utahraptors.
Aha, 'raptor' - bingo - trendy, hip and much easier to say and write than 'bird of prey', let's just transfer the use of the term and thereby confuse the heck out of everyone. Job done. Thanks you morons.
Ah yes, the handsaw reference. William Shakespear - Hamlet - "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw." So the hawk is the hawk and the handsaw is a hernsaw or heronsaw (young heron) in old English dialect. So maybe I do know my hawk from my handsaw as Hamlet said but my owl from my raptor maybe not. As for the birds themselves, they neither know nor care.