Category Archives: Birds of Prey

What’s That Whining Sound?

Juvenile red-tailed hawk, Washington DC, 2017 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Have you heard whining that sounds like this?

Sometimes you hear songbirds calling nearby, “Danger! Watch out!”

In July and early August young red-tailed hawks whine for food. Here’s one in July 2018 at New York’s Botanical Garden with an American robin raising the alarm.

And here’s one on a windowsill in Austin, Texas, July 2011.

Red-tailed hawks raise one brood per year. The female lays eggs in March or April. The eggs hatch in 28-35 days and the young fledge 42-46 days later. That’s when the begging begins.

For three weeks juvenile red-tailed hawks depend on their parents and are not shy about asking for food. Whine!

The whining doesn’t end there. Though the youngsters become increasingly self sufficient they still want a handout if they can get one. Whine! Whine! Whine! Their parents ignore them.

Self sufficiency is the first big hurdle on their way to becoming successful adult red-tails. Some youngsters take longer than others to get the hint.

Meanwhile, whine, whine, whine, WHINE!

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original. Audio from Xeno Canto, videos from YouTube)

Young Raptors As Home Wreckers

Immature bald eagle, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Something is happening among nesting bald eagles in the James River watershed that may explain what we’re seeing among peregrines in western Pennsylvania. There are lots of eagles at the James River but less nesting success than in the past. The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia has figured out why.

CCB has been conducting bald eagle nesting surveys every March since the 1970s. Seven years after DDT was banned they found only one pair of bald eagles in the watershed. This year there are 319 pairs.

Meanwhile, “eagle productivity has dropped as the population has grown and breeding density has increased.” The number of eaglets per nest peaked at 1.6+ in the mid 1990s but has dropped to only 1.05 today.

Lower nesting success is not a food problem, it’s a competition problem. CCB explains:

The mechanism causing the decline does not appear to be traditional resource competition where pairs scramble for their share of limited fish. Rather, the mechanism appears to be young marauding eagles that are disrupting territory holders and competing for a limited set of viable breeding territories.

Young bald eagles are harassing adult pairs in an attempt to gain a territory — so much so that some pairs fail to nest successfully.

Adult and immature bald eagles jousting (photo by Steve Gosser)

This sounds like what happened at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest this year. In February a young male, Ecco, showed up at the Pitt nest and persistently vied for the site — so much so that Morela didn’t lay eggs until May and her eggs were never incubated. Hmmmm.

Young bald eagles are home wreckers. Maybe young peregrines are, too.

Read more about the James River bald eagle population at CCB’s James River Eagle Population Continues to Soar While Productivity Continues to Fall.

(photos by Steve Gosser)

A Dose of Love

Barred owl chicks (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t know about you but I really need uplifting news today. Here’s a dose of motherly love and cuteness as two barred owl chicks (Strix varia) grow up.

Thanks to The Dodo and Cornell Lab of Ornithology for brightening our day.

Barred owl mother and chick (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Whoops! I Can Fly

16 June 2020

Sometimes learning from a small mistake is just what you need to make the next big step in life. A red-tailed hawk nestling found that out last Friday.

The three nestlings at Cornell’s Red-tailed Hawk Nestcam were ready to fledge on 14 June but no one had done it yet. One was eating and playing with his food. The other two were bored and puttering around the nest high above Cornell University’s stadium.

One of them, J2, decided to test his wings from a perch on the stadium light. It was windy. He started to slide down the light. Whoops! … I can fly!

Watch the faces of his siblings as he flies around the stadium and lands in the trees.

By 10:30am Sunday all three had fledged.

See video highlights of them leaving the nest at allaboutbirds.org/cornellhawks. (Scroll down below the live-cam panel.)

(video from Cornell Lab’s Red-tailed Hawk Cam)

Hays Eaglets Are Growing Fast

Two eaglets at the Hays bald eagle nest, 20 April 2020 (screenshot from the Hays eaglecam at ASWP)

21 April 2020

Every day that passes without an egg at the Cathedral of Learning nest confirms my disappointment that there’s no Pittsburgh peregrine family to watch online. However, we have a great alternative at a local nest with two active chicks.

The eaglets at the Hays bald eagle nest have long since passed the brooding stage and already have pin feathers. Their parents stand guard overnight as seen this morning before 5am.

Hays bald eagles at their nest: 2 parents, 2 chicks. 21 April 2020, 4:50am (screenshot from the Hays eaglecam at ASWP)

They’re growing up fast. Watch the Hays eagles at http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest.

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.