Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Jan 17 2016

Whose Voice Is That?

Blue jays mimic the sounds of raptors to warn (or fool!) other blue jays.

In Pittsburgh they often mimic red-tailed hawks.  In Florida red-shouldered hawks are much more common so the jays imitate them instead.

This video from MyBackyardBirding in Florida is a good example of how blue jays can sound like red-shouldered hawks.  Can you tell who’s who when they aren’t on screen?

The mourning dove seems to be having a hard time figuring it out.

 

(video from MyBackyardBirding on YouTube)

 

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Jan 15 2016

A Conversation Between Two Birds

During the snowy owl irruption two years ago, John Dunstan recorded this video of a raven and a snowy owl having a conversation.

The raven says many things.  The snowy owl is unimpressed.

Notice at 1:20 in the video that the top of the raven’s head seems to grow “ears.”  This dominance gesture means “I’m big! Watch out!”  The owl doesn’t care and reaches over to peck the raven at 1:44.  The raven’s ears go down … but up again at 2:09.  What’s going on?

John Dunstan asked raven expert Bernd Heinrich, author of The Mind of the Raven, for an explanation and put Heinrich’s reply in the video description:

Naturalist Bernd Heinrich, author of “The Mind of the Raven”, was nice enough to provide this description.

Hi John,
The first thing to notice is that the owl is TOTALLY unimpressed. It’s not scared in the least, and the raven has no aggressive intentions, but starts out being just curious – like: “what the hell is This!” So it tests – tries to get a reaction. But the owl still stays totally nonchalant. At some point the raven then tries a different tactic – it puts on its “I’m a big guy” display of erect “ear” feathers – usually used to show status in the presence of potential superiors, but here used also with a bowing and wing-flaring, which is used in supplication if there is NOT going to be a challenge – so, yes, I think the raven was having fun, and then also starting to have some respect, because this big white thing was NOT going to cooperate and be its toy. 
Bernd

The comments on the video are priceless!  Click here to see the video on YouTube and read the comments.

 

(video by John Dunstan on YouTube)

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Jan 07 2016

TBT: No, they won’t eat corn

Coopers hawk (photo by Chuck Tague)

Coopers hawk (photo by Chuck Tague)

On Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

When a Cooper’s hawk eats a bird at your feeder, it makes you think.

Click here for some thoughts on carnivorous birds — No, they won’t eat corn  — from 2008.

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

 

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Dec 18 2015

Snowy Owls At Sea

Snowy Owl, Amherst Island, 2008 (photo by Kim Steininger)

Snowy Owl, Amherst Island 2008 (photo by Kim Steininger)

(A day late for Throw Back Thursday…)

Did you know that some snowy owls stay on the Arctic Ocean all winter?  Seven years ago satellite tracking technology revealed their unusual lifestyle.

Read more about the snowy owls who live on ice in the dark in this 2008 article:  Surprise! We hunt at sea.

 

p.s. Ever since the snowy owl irruption of 2013-2014, Project Snowstorm has satellite tagged and tracked some of the snowy owls who visit the Lower 48 States.  Click here to see maps and follow their stories of these amazing birds.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

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Dec 16 2015

Where Do The Golden Eagles Go?

Golden eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2011 (photo by Michael Lanzone)

Golden eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2011 (photo by Michael Lanzone)

In late autumn birders visit the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, hoping this iconic bird will fly by.  On a good day more than 30 golden eagles migrate past the site.

After years of observation we now take for granted that golden eagles use the Allegheny Front as a migration corridor but that wasn’t always the case.

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) occur worldwide in the northern hemisphere but their stronghold in North America is in the American West.  They’re rarely seen in the East so it was a surprise when people saw so many at the Allegheny Front.

Where were they coming from?  Where were they going?

The answers remained a mystery until 2006-2007 when Dr. Todd Katzner, Dr. Trish Miller and Michael Lanzone, fore-runners of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group (EGEWG), fitted a few eagles with satellite transmitters.  The data showed those birds bred in Quebec and spent the winter in the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

This tantalizing information got a boost when the group upgraded their tracking equipment.  Beginning in 2008 most of the birds were fitted with GPS-GSM units that record more frequent data points and transmit over the cell network.

Here’s an EGEWG map from Katzner Lab showing movements of 14 golden eagles, Spring 2012 to Winter 2013.  These eagles were fitted with GPS-GSM units.  (Solid lines are winter/summer homes; dashed lines are migration.)

Golden eagle movements in eastern North America, satellite telemetry, Spring 2012-Winter 2013, part 2 (map courtesy of Katzner Lab)

Golden eagle movements in eastern North America, satellite telemetry, Spring 2012-Winter 2013, part 2 (map courtesy of Katzner Lab)

Thanks to many years of tracking, we now know that the golden eagles of eastern North America breed in Canada and spend the winter in the southern and central Appalachians.  This information, plus on-going research, helps protect the eagles and their habitat.

Click here to view maps at Katzner Lab and find out where the golden eagles go.

 

(photo by Michael Lanzone, Cellular Tracking Technologies)

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Dec 09 2015

Get Ready For Eagle Season

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald eagle at Hays, PA, 21 Nov 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA)

Bald eagle at Hays, PA, 21 Nov 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA)

Though it’s only December, Pittsburgh area bald eagles are getting ready for nesting season. They’re starting now because the females will lay eggs in February.

Those who don’t have a nest site are scouting new territories and those who do are staying near home to keep the scouts away.  Meanwhile the immature set, ages 1-3, are loafing where the fishing is good up and down the rivers.

At the Hays bald eagle nest site, Dana Nesiti has been photographing the eagles whenever he can.  He took this beautiful photo on November 21.  Click on it to see more of his work at Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page.

Up the Allegheny at Tarentum, observers have seen lots of peregrine-eagle interactions since a pair of bald eagles moved into the area.  Even though the female peregrine, Hope, left Tarentum for Pitt, a single peregrine is still present at the bridge.  Mary Ann Thomas wrote about it at TribLive here.

So if you haven’t already, now’s the time to start looking for eagles along our rivers.  Check out the established nesting territories at Hays, Dashields Dam, and Harmar.  Keep your eyes peeled for new pairs at Tarentum and beyond.

Get ready for eagle season!

 

(photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA)

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Dec 03 2015

Bald Eagles Hunting

Published by under Birds of Prey

(Only a day late for Throw Back Thursday. It’s been a busy week!)

Back in November 2008 I wrote about PBS NATURE’s premier of American Eagle, an intimate look at our nation’s iconic bird.

American Eagle is rarely broadcast now and the full episode is no longer available online, but this segment is.  It shows bald eagles hunting waterfowl on the Upper Mississippi in the fall.

Coots have a bad time in the video but the eagles are stupendous. 🙂

 

(YouTube video from the PBS Channel)

p.s. Click here for more information at PBS NATURE.  You can buy the DVD here.

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Dec 01 2015

National Aviary Vulture On The Tonight Show!

In case you missed it …

On November 11 a black vulture from the National Aviary made her debut on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  Chris Packham introduced Jimmy to two hyenas and then at the 2:00 minute mark …

Woo hoo!

 

(YouTube video from The Tonight Show)

p.s. Congratulations to the vulture (I forget her name) who’s famous in the daily Flight Shows at the National Aviary and to all the people who made her debut possible.

p.p.s  I’m not so sure Jimmy Fallon likes vultures.  What do you think?

4 responses so far

Nov 07 2015

The Right Wind

The view from the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Kate St. John)

The view from the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Kate St. John)

Though many birds have migrated away from Pennsylvania our hawk watch sites are still going strong.  November brings more red-tails, sharp-shinned hawks, and this month’s main attraction — golden eagles.

The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, pictured above, was particularly good for golden eagles earlier this week (27 of them on Tuesday!) when the wind was from the southeast.

Southeast?

It doesn’t make sense that we’d watch hawks flying into a head wind until you realize that this beautiful view at the Allegheny Front is facing east.  There’s no mountain edge on the west, just the Allegheny Plateau, so the best winds for watching are those with an easterly component that create an updraft and lift the hawks right above our heads.

Yesterday the weather changed, so the wind is now from the west and north. Other sites will be better for hawk watching.

Today and tomorrow, 11/7 and 11/8, the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology is visiting Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch near Carlisle, PA.  This site is on a ridgetop with great views in all directions and lots of raptors passing through in November, especially on a northwest wind.  At this time of year Waggoner’s Gap often has the highest hawk count of any watch in the state.

For the best raptor viewing, pick a site with the right wind.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Oct 30 2015

Bald Eagle Rendezvous

If you’re a fan of bald eagles, here’s a site to put on your travel plans for next month.

Every November bald eagles congregate on the Susquehanna River at Conowingo Dam just south of the Pennsylvania border in Maryland.  Eagles like the area because the fish are easy to catch after they pass through the dam’s gateway.  We like the area because there are so many bald eagles and it’s only a 4.5-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

As you can see from the video above, it’s a popular place for photography.

If you don’t mind crowds and want to see a wide selection of raptors, visit on Saturday November 14, 2015 for Conowingo’s Bald Eagle Day.

Here’s a video from last year’s event.  Yes, there are crowds but you’ll see cool birds, too.

For more information, follow Conowingo Bald Eagles on Facebook and click here for event information.

 

(videos from YouTube)

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