Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Aug 19 2016

Follow The Sound And You Might Find …

This broad-winged hawk was hidden until the songbirds gave him away.

If you hear birds making a ruckus in late August and September, look for what’s upsetting them.  It might be a broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) stopping by on migration.


p.s. Broad-winged hawks are forest dwellers, the same bulky shape as red-tailed hawks but smaller and not often seen near people.

(video by caroltlw on YouTube)

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Aug 18 2016

Backyard Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk on Solomon's deck (photo by Michael Solomon)

Red-tailed Hawk on Solomon’s deck (photo by Michael Solomon)

On Throw Back Thursday:

If there’s a bulky hawk in your backyard that ignores you like this, I bet I can identify it without ever seeing it.  In western Pennsylvania, I’m 90% sure it’s a juvenile red-tailed hawk.

Young red-tailed hawks are so focused that they tune us out.  Read about this backyard bird in the 2009 article:


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Aug 04 2016

Today Is International Owl Awareness Day

Published by under Birds of Prey

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Nesting season is over but it’s nice to look back at this mother great horned owl and her nestling. Today is their special day.

August 4 is International Owl Awareness Day, an annual celebration of owls.  To get you in the mood, here’s a quick video that promoted last year’s event at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.


And here are some of today’s worldwide International Owl Awareness events:

Whooooo knew!   🙂


(photo by Chuck Tague, video from the Oregon Zoo)

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Jul 25 2016

The Harriers of Piney Tract

Male northern harrier nesting at Piney Tract, summer 2016 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Male northern harrier at Piney Tract, summer 2016 (photo by Steve Gosser)

This summer Steve Gosser spent a lot of time at Piney Tract in Clarion County photographing a family of northern harriers.  The harriers nested there because it’s one of their preferred habitats and one of the few grasslands in western Pennsylvania.

Though they’re birds of prey, northern harriers (Circus cyaneus) nest on the ground.  The male harrier usually does all the hunting, then transfers the food to his mate in an aerial prey exchange.  The female takes the prey to the nest and feeds the young but she’s sneaky about it so she doesn’t give away the nest location.

Throughout their nesting season Steve was able to photograph them from his car window without disturbing them.  He captured their prey exchanges and aerial maneuvers though he never saw the nest.  Later he learned that they fledged three chicks.

Read about the harriers and see Steve’s beautiful photos at his blog post: A Summer Watching the Harriers at Piney Tract.

See all of Steve’s work at his new website,


A note to my European readers: The northern harrier is the same species as the hen harrier in Europe.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

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Jul 17 2016

Practice Makes Perfect

Eastern screech-owl, Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio,11 May 2016 (photo snapped by Carlos Bethancourt using Kate St. John's cellphone)

Eastern screech-owl, Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio,11 May 2016 (photo snapped by Carlos Bethancourt using Kate St. John’s cellphone)

Back in May I saw an eastern screech-owl snoozing in a nestbox at Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio. His photo, above, is on my cellphone but I can’t take credit for its beauty.

I have all the tools to create this photo — a bird scope and a cellphone — but I don’t have the skill yet.  I watched bird guide Carlos Bethancourt set my cellphone on the scope (without a scope adapter), manipulate the screen, and take three beautiful pictures.

Carlos made it look easy but I can’t get my cellphone to behave. My two best attempts at photographing a robins’ nest look like this.

Closeup of baby robins in a nest, 9 Jul 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Closeup of baby robins in a nest, 9 Jul 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

One baby robin, partially obscured by leaves (photo by Kate St. John)

Baby robin in a nest partially obscured by leaves (photo by Kate St. John)


I need a lot more practice to make it perfect.


(owl photo by Carlos Bethancourt using Kate St. John’s cellphone, robins’ photos by Kate St. John)

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Jul 15 2016

Watch the Young Hays Eagles Fly

Published by under Birds of Prey

The Hays bald eagle cam has been boring since the juveniles fledged but visitors to the nearby bike trail can sometimes catch a glimpse of the family.

Last weekend Mat Williams captured this video of the juveniles testing out their flying skills.  Enjoy!


(YouTube video by Mat Williams @boelsa)

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Jul 04 2016

On July 4: Advocate for Eagles

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald eagle (photo by Chuck Tague)

Bald eagle (photo by Chuck Tague)

I was “off the grid” in Montana when the American Bird Conservancy sent an important message about a proposed eagle management plan that would weaken protection for eagles. (!)  Now there’s only one day left — July 4 — to make your voice heard.

Here’s the message and the link for you to comment.


From the American Bird Conservancy,

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is taking public comment until July 5 on an eagle-management plan that could weaken protections for eagles, including the issuing of 30-year permits to wind energy and other companies that allow the “take” (or harm) of thousands of eagles. Please help us strengthen the rule by submitting a comment today.

Under the proposed plan—also called the Eagle Take Rule—industry would not be required to have mortality data collected by independent, third-party experts; share mortality data with the public; or take critical factors like proper siting of wind turbines into consideration. We have sent our own, extensive comment letter to FWS and urge you to raise your voice as well. (Please see our press release for additional information.)

To endorse the following letter, which will be submitted as an official comment to elected officials, please fill out the form at this link. Thank you!

American Bird Conservancy | P.O. Box 249 | The Plains, VA 20198 | 888-247-3624

Note: When I submitted my comment I got an automated reply from my Congressman saying my message has to include my home address. Oops! I didn’t type my address inside the message. Make sure you do that.


(photo of bald eagle by Chuck Tague)

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May 04 2016

Kestrel Cam at The Peregrine Fund

Things got exciting on the Kestrel Nestcam in Boise, Idaho last Wednesday, April 27.  By the end of the day four of the five kestrel eggs had hatched. The fifth one hatched the next day.

Watch the first feeding in the video above.

American kestrels nest in holes and will readily use a nest box so The Peregrine Fund erected one on their campus and set up two streaming cameras — one inside the box and one outside.  Click here to watch the KestrelCam in Boise, sponsored by Bosch.

Here are some cool things you’ll notice about the kestrels:

  • The chicks are all the same size because they hatched within about 24 hours. Kestrels’ synchronous hatching strategy is similar to peregrines.(*)
  • American kestrels have malar stripes (mustaches) just like peregrines.
  • Their markings make it look as if they have eyes on the backs of their heads.
  • Kestrels are more colorful than peregrines but the mother’s plumage is muted compared to the male’s.  She’s striped and brown.  He has a cinnamon back and blue-gray wings.
  • When the chicks lose their down and develop juvenile plumage, they’ll resemble their mother.

Idaho is two time zones away so you’ll see these birds in the sun for two hours after night has begun in Pittsburgh.

Thank you to “Norca” for alerting me to this Kestrel Cam.


Ooops! This morning the inside-the-box camera is down for maintenance.  Please be patient … and watch the videos listed below the cam window.


(*)  NOTE:  Hatching at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest is delayed this spring because Hope started incubation about a week before she laid the 4th egg.  Her mate E2 died March 15. Terzo arrived on or before March 23.  There was a 15 day gap between the 3rd and 4th egg.

(video from the American kestrel nestcam, The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho)


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Apr 25 2016

Small Falcons Found Downtown

Male American kestrel (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Male American kestrel (photo by Cris Hamilton)

We’re still searching for the peregrines who nest in Downtown Pittsburgh.  They left the Gulf Tower in March and we know they’re nesting … but where?  Two weeks ago I posted this blog asking folks to… Look for Perching Peregrines.

Last Wednesday Diane P. left a comment saying she’d found a pair of falcons nesting in the facade of a building on Fifth Avenue across from Chatham Center.  Within a few hours I was Downtown checking the area for peregrines.

From Duquesne University’s campus I saw a small bird of prey perched high on Chatham Center but the light was so poor that I couldn’t identify it.  On Fifth Avenue I found this hole in the 1904 building.

The perfect hole for kestrels, 1904 building (photo by Kate St. John)

Kestrel hole, 1904 building (photo by Kate St. John)

The next morning I stopped by Chatham Center plaza and saw the bird in better light on the same perch.  It’s a small falcon, an American kestrel (Falco sparverius).

By luck Diane was out on the plaza, too, so we chatted about her discovery.  Suddenly we heard a kestrel calling and both adults swooped into the nest.  Then we heard the sounds of baby birds being fed.  It’s a family!

Diane was so good at finding these small falcons that I hope she finds the big ones, too.  (And I do hope the peregrines leave the kestrels alone!)

Remember to keep looking for perching peregrines when you’re Downtown.


(photo by Cris Hamilton)

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Apr 24 2016

Report Nesting Ospreys

Two Osprey chicks call for food (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Two Osprey chicks call for food (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Did you know that ospreys suffered through the DDT pesticide crash and recovery just like bald eagles and peregrine falcons?

Ospreys are doing much better now than they did in 1986 when there was only one nest in Pennsylvania — but how much better are they doing?  That’s where you come in.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission monitors this State Threatened species and they need to know where ospreys nest, especially in the western part of the state.

This PGC map shows the known nesting sites in 2015.  Look at the gaps!   For instance, is it possible that no ospreys nest in Armstrong County, home to the Allegheny River and Crooked Creek Lake?  I’ll bet they nest in the county but PGC doesn’t know about them.


Help the PA Game Commission fill in the map by reporting nesting ospreys.  Download the  Osprey Nest Survey Form (PDF) along with the Nest Observation Protocol (PDF). Submit your completed survey forms to

And please don’t assume someone else will report a local nest.  It’s up to you!

For more information, read this eBird blog post by Doug Gross.


(photo by Cris Hamilton)

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