Category Archives: Birds of Prey

Two New Eaglets At Hays

First eaglet at Hays, 21 March 2020 (photo from Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania – ASWP Facebook page)

While I was distracted by the COVID-19 emergency, the Hays bald eagles hatched two eggs!

The first eaglet appeared on Sat 21 March 21 at 7:40am, above. The second one hatched on Monday 23 March at 6:40am, below.

Second eaglet at Hays, 23 March 2020 (photo from Bald Eagles of Western Pennsylvania – ASWP Facebook page)

In the day between hatchlings, Audubon Society of Western PA captured this video of the mother rolling her second egg. Notice how carefully she holds her talons inward as she steps near her chick. What a good mom!

Watch the Hays bald eagle family online at http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest.

p.s. Stay safe, folks. Online viewing is best! Allegheny and seven other Pennsylvania counties are now under a Stay At Home order through 6 April. (Click for details) We are allowed to go outdoors but must stay six feet apart.

(photos and video from Bald Eagles of Western Pennsylvania — Audubon Society of Western PA)

Pittsburgh Eagles: A Look Back to 2013

Harmar Bald Eagle carrying nesting material, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Harmar Bald Eagle carrying nesting material, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Seven years ago we suddenly had three bald eagle nests in Allegheny County, PA. Hays and Harmar were new and Crescent Township was only a year old.

On Throw Back Thursday, let’s look back to March 2013:

(photo by Steve Gosser, 2013)

Harmar Eagles Have An Egg

First egg of 2020 at the Harmar nest (photo by Gina Gilmore used by permission)

28 February 2020:

There’s happy news at the Harmar bald eagle nest, observed by Gina Gilmore.

Gina was on hand on Wed 26 Feb 2020 at 1:57pm when she saw — and filmed — the female bald eagle behaving as if she had laid her first egg. The bird stood in the nest, often looked down between her feet, and remained standing as if she was waiting for an egg to dry. Then she settled down to begin incubation.

Click here or on the image above to see Gina’s video. When you play the video, click on the speaker icon at bottom right to turn on sound …

This egg is the 10th at the Harmar site since nesting was first confirmed in 2013/2014 and the 1st for 2020. A second egg is due today or tomorrow, 28 or 29 Feb, at Harmar.

Thank you, Gina Gilmore, for filming this happy event. Without an eaglecam on the nest, we rely on observers like Gina to note behavior that indicates an egg has been laid. See more of Gina’s photos on her Facebook page.

You can help observe the Harmar bald eagles from this small dirt parking area (blue pin) along Freeport Road. Click here for Gina’s photo of the viewing area.

NOTE: If the parking area is full you’ll have to go elsewhere.

(photo by Gina Gilmore)

Second Egg at Hays Eagle Nest, Feb 16

The female eagle at the Hays bald eagle nest laid her second egg of the season on 16 Feb 2020 at 6:30pm — exactly three days after the first one!

Audubon of Western PA spread the news at the Bald Eagles of Western PA Facebook page:

Watch this nesting pair on the Hays eaglecam at http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest.

(photo and text from Bald Eagles of Western PA — Audubon Society of Western PA Facebook page)

First Bald Eagle Egg of 2020 at Hays, Feb 13

First egg at the Hays bald eagle nest, 13 Feb 2020, 6:35pm (photo from the Hays eaglecam at Audubon Society of Western PA)

Happy news on Valentine’s Day! Last evening the Audubon Society of Western PA (ASWP) announced:

[Pittsburgh, PA, February 13, 2020] – Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirms an egg in the Hays, PA Bald Eagle nest. The egg, laid at 6:30 pm this evening, is visible in the nest on the eagle cam when the incubating adult stands up: http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest. There is typically a 2-3 day span in between eggs being laid in a Bald Eagle nest. In 2019, the Hays Bald Eagles laid three eggs; two hatched and the juveniles successfully fledged the nest.

Bald Eagles in Western PA Facebook page

ASWP also posted this video of the first egg roll:

Join the conversation at Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania Facebook page.

Watch the Hays Bald Eagle cam at http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest.

(photos and video from Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania – Audubon Society of Western PA Facebook page)

Note: The photos and video are in black-and-white because the camera uses infrared to see the nest in the dark.

Hays Bald Eagles: Eggs Coming Soon

Hays bald eagle pair, 8 Feb 2020 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA)

Heads up, Bald Eagle Fans!

Yesterday on their Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania Facebook page, Audubon of Western PA pointed out that the first bald eagle egg at Hays is usually laid between February 12 and 17.

Watch for eggs on the Hays Bald Eagle cam at http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest.

Join the conversation at Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania Facebook page.

See great photos at the Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page. Dana Nesiti visits the Allegheny Passage trail and other sites along the Monongahela River to capture the eagles in their natural setting.

Eggs coming soon!

(photo by Dana Nesiti at Eagles of Hays PA Facebook page)

The Benefits of Brush Piles

Coopers hawk eyeing a brush pile that’s full of birds (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

When a predator shows up at your backyard feeders the songbirds need a place to hide. If you don’t have any evergreens, you can make an instant shelter with a brush pile.

Brush piles don’t look tidy but they benefit birds. Look how this one frustrates an active Coopers hawk in Wisconsin.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming this weekend, 14-17 Feb 2020. Here are 3 quick things to make your backyard a better place for birds.

  • Clean your feeders: Bird feeders accumulate mold and bacteria, including Salmonella. Clean them every two to four weeks by emptying and soaking for 10 minutes in a weak solution of 10% bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) described at The Spruce: Bird Feeder Cleaning Tips.
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Provide shelter (described above).

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman, video tweet from @RLJSlick)

Near Threatened Eagles: A Life Story

The amazing photo below of an eagle’s claw and a human hand left me wondering, Who is this bird and why are his claws so big? Today I’ll tell you a bit of his life story.

Juvenile crowned eagle in captivity (image from r/pics on Reddit)

Shaped like a giant goshawk with a feather crest, the crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) lives in the riparian forests of sub-Saharan Africa where it eats monkeys, small forest antelopes (duikers), “mouse-deer” (chevrotains) and “rock rabbits” (rock hyrax). Click on the links to see photos of these unusual animals.

Crowned eagles weigh only 6-10 pounds, smaller than bald eagles, yet they routinely capture mammals twice as heavy as they are. Reports say they can fly with prey that outweighs them, but they normally rip it apart on the ground and cache pieces in the trees. For this lifestyle they need large talons.

Deforestation in Africa is destroying the crowned eagles’ high-canopy habitat and their population is declining. They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

African crowned eagle in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Fortunately they nest in safety at Zimbali Coastal Resort near Durban, South Africa. Watch them at the nest in Zimbali’s 8-minute video.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, embedded Reddit post; click on the captions to see the originals)

Best Bird Of The First Day

Turkey vulture (photo by Melissa McMasters via Wikimedia Commons)

For many years now my First Bird of the Year is always the American crow because hundreds fly over my house before dawn, cawing as they disperse from the roost. The only way a different species could win “First Bird” is if I cheated and ignored the obvious.

This year I decided to change the challenge to Best Bird of the First Day. My 2020 winner is the turkey vulture that used to be absent on January 1.

Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) are South American birds who’ve expanded their range into North America, year-round residents in the southern U.S. but only summer visitors up north.

Vultures migrate because they can’t eat our winter food supply. Though carrion is available year-round their beaks aren’t strong enough to rip open frozen food.

However climate change is doing them a favor. Last month in Pittsburgh most days were barely below freezing and five recent days were as much as 20 degrees above normal. Nothing was frozen.

Turkey vultures used to leave Pittsburgh for the winter but in this century a few began to linger here. The most reliable group roosted within sight of Dashields Dam on the Ohio River. Last month additional vultures were reported during the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count. Even so, I was surprised to see two of them soaring over McKnight Road on the first day of the year.

As more turkey vultures become year-round residents of Pittsburgh we can sing “Here to stay is the new bird” for yet another species.

(photo and map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the original)

Eagles vs Drones? Golden Eagles Win

Golden eagle captures a drone in midair in France (screenshot from AFP video)

In 2015, when drones flew over sensitive urban spaces in France, the government passed new laws to restrict the airspace. However some places are so sensitive that rogue drones must be removed if they attempt a flyover. How can they be downed in mid-air without hurting anyone? The French military came up with an effective solution.

In 2016 France’s Army Air Force began a falconry program with four golden eagle chicks, named for the four Musketeers. Golden eagles are the only bird large enough to safely bring down a 4.5 to 9 pound drone (2-4 kilograms). The eagles were trained to view drones as prey and learned to catch them in mid air.

The eagles did so well that the Air Force made plans to add four more eagles the following year.

Click here or on the screenshots to watch a 2017 video of the eagles in training.

Golden eagle on glove in France (screenshot from AFP video)

Gold eagles versus drones? The eagles win!

(screenshots from AFP News video on YouTube; click here to watch the video)