I stopped by to see how the Goodyear burrowing owl was doing, and when I first pulled up it looked like nobody was home. All of a sudden he popped his head out of the burrow. I was dying! pic.twitter.com/OjeXm0tzCg
The three youngsters in the Hays bald eagle nest have grown a lot in the weeks since they hatched on March 23 and 27. Their white natal down has been replaced by gray second down and they are showing pin feathers, the precursor to flight feathers and juvenile plumage.
On Wednesday 21 April they were glad to see food arrive. It was cold and there was snow on the nest.
You won’t see snow next Tuesday. Our high is forecast for 82 degrees F!
News from last Saturday 27 March: This year for the first time since 2014 all three eggs hatched at the Hays nest. The first two (H13 and H14) hatched 18 hours apart on 23 March. The last (H15) hatched on 27 March. In this snapshot from 3rd Hatch Day the oldest is four days old, the youngest is seven hours old.
Meanwhile at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest, 3.5 miles away, Morela laid her third egg yesterday morning. Peregrines typically lay 3-5 eggs so Morela may lay more. We won’t know until we see it.
The peregrine timelapse video below shows the adults may be incubating, though I wonder about Morela’s 90 minutes on the perch from 4p – 5:30p. If incubating has begun the hatch date will be a month from now, approximately April 20-24.
Interestingly, though the peregrines started nesting a month later than the eagles they will more than catch up in the end. The Pitt peregrine nestlings will fly at least a week before the Hays eaglets.
The Hays eagles schedule this year is …
First eagle egg laid = 12 February 2021
First eagle egg hatched, first chick = 23 March 2021
First flight expected = guessing June 11 – 20
The Pitt peregrines’ schedule is …
First peregrine egg = 17 March 2021
First peregrine hatch (most will hatch on the same day) = approximately 20-25 April.
First flight expected = guessing 30 May to 4 June.
Soon the Hays bald eagle nest will have active fluffy chicks while the Pitt peregrines will embark on The Big Sit. For the next month it will be more interesting to watch the eagles than the peregrines.
Pennsylvania’s bald eagles are already on eggs in their huge stick-nests. Peregrine falcons are about to lay eggs on gravel ledges. Meanwhile, in Florida and southern California burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) are preparing to nest underground.
I’m so excited to see that my local burrowing owl’s mate has returned from her vacation. She does not look happy to see me, lol. pic.twitter.com/RytDtdL48o
If you follow the Hays bald eagle family you know the female is incubating three eggs while her mate guards her overnight. The male has good cause to stay close. A great horned owl has been harassing them!
Almost two weeks ago, on Sunday 21 Feb 2021 at 9:26pm, a great horned owl knocked the male bald eagle off the “woods perch.”
Things seemed to calm down for a week. Then on the night of Tuesday 2 March 2021 the great horned owl came back twice.
It returned an hour later to knock the male off a branch close to the nest, shown in the video below.
The Hays bald eagles are probably feeling murderous about that owl right now so I’m sure they’ll like this trail cam video from Washington state in which a great horned owl is attacked by three species in a row!
Native from Florida to Argentina, the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) is a gregarious bird of prey that eats only one thing: freshwater snails in the genus Pomacea. Its beak is specially shaped to do so.
The Snail Kite’s slender, deeply hooked, sharp-tipped upper mandible permits it to cut the columellar muscle of Pomacea snails and remove soft tissues from the shells. The arc of the upper mandible approximates the inner spiral of the snail’s shell.
In the old days before humans took over Florida’s landscape, snail kites ranged over half the state, but we drained and diverted more than 50% of Florida’s wetlands, the snail kite population crashed and was listed as Endangered in 1967. Twenty years ago, from 2000-2007, their population dipped so low that scientists feared they would go extinct in the U.S. Then a curious thing happened. Their food supply changed and the kites changed so they could eat it.
Before this century the snail kite’s main food was the native Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa) but an invasive species, the island apple snail (Pomacea maculata), arrived in 2000 and began to spread in Florida’s lakes and water management areas.
When the island apple snail first arrived in Florida the snail kite population dropped but less than a decade later the population began increasing. Did the birds initially have a tool problem? Were their beaks too short to get at the snail inside the larger shell? A recent study from the University of Florida indicates this was probably the case. Since 2007…
Researchers found that the birds with bigger bills were surviving, and their offspring were inheriting the bigger bills. …
“We found that beak size had a large amount of genetic variance and that more variance happened post-invasion of the island apple snail. This indicates that genetic variations may spur rapid evolution under environmental change,” Fletcher said.
On Wednesday night, 17 February just after 7pm, a raccoon scaled one of the branches that holds the Hays bald eagle nest. The mother eagle was on the nest and heard the raccoon coming so she rose up, spread her wings, and scared him away.
Seven years ago a raccoon intruder did the same thing. This one was a little braver.
The raccoon hid nearby, frozen in place, but four minutes later he moved again and the father eagle arrived to help. Two eagles!! The raccoon finally left.
Most birds fear great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) for they are such top predators that they will eat the young of bald eagles, peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks.
Their nesting habits are dangerous, too. Like other owls they never build a nest but great horned owls will steal one that looks good to them. They usually pick on red-tailed hawks. It leads to a fight as shown in the video below.
In early February 2019 a red-tailed hawk was building a nest at Presidio park in San Francisco when a great horned owl decided to steal it. The details of their encounter are quoted below the video. (Abbreviations: RTH=red-tailed hawk, GHO=great horned owl)
A pair of great horned owls have been visiting this red-tail hawk nest at the Presidio for several nights. This is the first time it’s come to the nest during the day, and the first time the RTH has seen it. It didn’t take kindly to the invasion and attacked it soon after it arrived. The GHO was able to fend off the RTH the first time, but in the 2nd attempt, it falls off the nest and doesn’t come back….until the next day. The RTH returns to make sure all is secure. Confrontations done in real time and SloMo. NOTE: The owl comes back the next day & lays an egg, and another a few days later. There are a few minor skirmishes, but the RTH finally moves on & lets the GHO have the nest. One of its two eggs broke, but the remaining egg is due to hatch mid-March. UPDATE: The 2nd egg failed to hatch also. The owl eventually moved on.
If the owls are persistent, the red-tailed hawks eventually give up. Great horned owls outweigh red-tails by 30% and their talons are more than twice as powerful with a talon strength of 500 lbs per square inch. On the glove you can see the difference: red-tailed hawk (left), a great horned owl (right).
Everyone’s enemy is a formidable foe. No nest is worth dying for.
p.s. It is likely that Pittsburgh’s great horned owls have already laid eggs — much earlier than bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and peregrines According to the Breeding Bird Atlas of Pennsylvania the earliest egg dates in PA are …
Great horned owl = 22 January
Bald eagle = 6 February
Red-tailed hawk = 24 February
Peregrine falcon in Pittsburgh = 6 March (based on falconcam at Pitt)