Showing posts with label Birds of Prey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birds of Prey. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The AMERICAN BALD EAGLE - Facts Everyone Should Know

English: American Bald Eagle taken at the Hoog...
American Bald Eagle taken at the Hoogle Zoo in UT
(Photo credit: 
Many people don't know that the bald eagle has been the symbol of the United States and the nation's national bird since 1782. Sea Eagles, so common in 18th century Europe, were a common sight to America's early settlers, and it is from mistaking the two birds that the bald eagle got its name. There were no bald eagles in Europe, as the bald eagle is found only in North America. The sea eagle name lingers, and the scientific name, Haliaetus leucocephalus, actually means "sea eagle with a white head" in Greek and Latin.

Of the 'sea eagle' species, the bald eagle is the only one that is native to North America. The bald eagle is immediately obvious by its smooth, white head and white tail, contrasted by the deep brown feathers of its body. Coins, flags, buildings, and seals in the United States have used the image of the bald eagle to symbolize the country.

The bald eagle is a fierce bird of prey, along with other raptors, such as hawks, vultures, owls, and falcons. The bald eagle lives on a diet of live prey, such as waterfowl and fish, as well as rodents, snakes, rabbits, and birds, but they will eat carrion when there is no live prey to be eaten.

Bald eagles are enormous and intimidating birds, with adults growing to 32 inches in length, with wingspans to 7 ½ feet, and weighing up to 16 pounds.

The largest eagles live in Alaska, and the smaller eagles can be found in Florida. Wherever the bald eagle lives, the animals in the region scatter when the bird begins to land.

Each hunting pair of bald eagles requires an area of 2 to 15 square miles in which to hunt. Each pair of bald eagles shares a nest, furiously guarding it against predators. The bald eagle sometimes chases animals that have made a catch of their own, such as the East Central Florida bald eagles that chase Ospreys along the Indian River Lagoon. The eagle will then get to eat the Osprey's catch, as the Osprey drops its squirming prey to escape the eagle.

Although they are birds of prey, the bald eagle shows a tremendous instinct for family loyalty. The bald eagle stays with its mate for life, though few other birds follow this behavior. Though most birds live a much shorter time, the bald eagle can live for as many as 25 years. They live across North America, from the north, including Canada and Alaska, across the middle expanses of the U.S., and south into the northern part of Mexico.

The bald eagle travels frequently, flying to northern climates to escape hot summers, the birds usually return close to the place where they were hatched in order to begin families of their own. Breeding bald eagles lay one to three eggs in the spring, which hatch about 35 days later. After three months in the nest, the baby bald eagles begin to fly, and a month later fly away from their mother for good. The dangers of hunger, disease, harsh weather and toxic chemicals can all make life hard for baby eagles, but almost 70% manage to adapt and survive for at least a year.

Did you know that to save the species in 1940 the United States Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act? This law made it illegal for people to disturb or bother the birds. This also included taking bald eagles for reasons such as selling, trading, or transporting them and also included their eggs and nests. Taking an eagle included shooting at the birds, wounding them, trapping, capturing, disturbing them, or killing them in any manner.

Large numbers of bald eagles died because of DTT, the overuse of pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. The bald eagle was given a chance to be saved by the many reintroduction programs and new laws that were enacted to help them. It seemed nearly impossible to save the species from extinction at the time.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 allowed species that were small in numbers to be classified as threatened, and species with very low populations to be classified as endangered. In the early 1990s, the rapidly increasing numbers of bald eagles made it possible for the species to be taken off the endangered species lists in most states.

The bald eagle has dramatically increased in numbers between 1963 and 1994, rising from about 500 pairs to almost 5,000 pairs and leading Congress to reclassify its status as threatened. With the increasing population of the bald eagle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon take the bird off the endangered species list.

To observe the bald eagle is a pleasurable experience. The long strides of the bald eagle as it launches leads into the soaring, slow-motion movement of the bird in flight. The determined eagle keeps to its determined path, its prize kept in sight. The skies of North America are increasingly filled with the majestic bald eagle. Everyone should make an effort to see this animal.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Why OWLS Do Not Make Good Pets

Description: The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is a ...
The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is a species of owl resident in much of Europe and southern Russia. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although owls are declining quite rapidly throughout the world, there are still some that are up for sale in the market, especially in Europe. However, advice that is usually given about owls is that you should never think of having one because owls do not make pets. It has actually been considered illegal in some countries. There are states in America that have set up a law requiring owls to be handled only by those people who are qualified and licensed individuals.

One reason why owls do not make good pets is that of their instinct that is much linked to the killing, which makes them destructive. Owl's talons are very sharp and they can be very dangerous to a human being. Qualified bird handlers have also fallen victims of an owls attack. Owls are ideally active at night and so they can give you a lot of trouble at night, especially during the mating season. 

Owls don't make good pets because they are considered as one of those birds that have a long life span and so intending to keep one becomes a lifetime commitment. There are those that can live for well over 20 years with some small species living for about 10 years. The specialized treatments required do not make owls good pets. If you are the caregiver you need to learn about their diet, signs of illness and the behaviors related to them. You also need to know that owls are carnivores and they require a regular supply of meat.

Thursday, December 20, 2018



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Top Ten Places to See BALD EAGLES With Your Binoculars

American Bald Eagle fall mating ritual
American Bald Eagle fall mating ritual - (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A threatened species whose numbers are improving and our national icon, these raptors are simply awesome. There are many great locations across the country where folks can view these large birds. Although the eagles live throughout the continental United States, Alaska, with about 50,000 eagles, has the most. 

 Here are the top ten National Wildlife Refuges for viewing:
  1. The Klamath Basin Refuges - Tulelake, CA, hosts the largest wintering concentration in the lower 48 states, often up to 1000 birds. Each year during the month of November, the birds begin to appear en masse on their Klamath Basin wintering grounds.
  2. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge - Basom, NY, Named for the Iroquois Indians, eagle watching is among the refuge's most popular activities.
  3. Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge - Woodbridge, VA, On the banks of the Potomac River, lies an 8000-acre peninsula, and the home of the first refuge established specifically for the protection of bald eagles.
  4. Patuxent Research Refuge - Laurel, MD, is the nation's only refuge established to support wildlife research. The 12,750-acre refuge, which supports a wide diversity of wildlife, is managed to protect native and migratory bird species.
  5. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge - Cambridge, MD, Eagles are here in droves from the fall through the summer, taking advantage of the mix of marsh, forested uplands and some farm fields.
  6. Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge - Crystal River, FL, From October through April, many bald eagles winter and nest on the banks of the Chassahowitzka River. In fact, frequently, visitors will be greeted by a pair of bald eagles in a tree at the refuge entrance.
  7. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge - Missouri Valley, IA, This refuge has become an important wintering area for up to 120 bald eagles.
  8. Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge - Mound City, MO, Visitors can attend Bald Eagle days at the refuge this year on December 1 and 2 featuring live eagle shows and guided tours of the refuge's 2-300 bald eagles.
  9. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge - Zimmerman, MN, is a particularly good spot for eagle viewing; an extensive network of shallow lakes that freeze and grow short of oxygen in the winter mean a seasonal fish kill that provides easy feeding in the spring, when groups of eagles descend to eat their fill.
  10. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge - Ridgefield, WA, Ridgefield is home to four nesting pair of bald eagles, but dozens more drop by in the winter, feeding on waterfowl and fish from the nearby Columbia River.
Bald eagles are simply amazing. The phrase "eagle eye" describes their highly developed visual ability, which can spot a moving rabbit almost a mile away. An eagle, flying at 1,000 feet altitude, can spot prey across almost 3 square miles. With wingspans of six to eight feet, these raptors can fly about 65 miles per hour and soar to altitudes of 10,000 feet, staying aloft for hours using natural wind currents and thermal updrafts. I encourage you to grab your binoculars and visit one or more of these locations that may be 'in your neighborhood' so that you too can view this amazing raptor.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Types of Birds: Raptors, BIRDS OF PREY

English: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Birds are sometimes classified by the type of food they eat. For example, birds that are carnivorous in nature are known as birds of prey or raptors. Differences also exist among these types of birds with regard to the animals they feed upon, however, one commonality is, the bigger the bird is the bigger the prey it feeds upon. The size of animals that these birds feed upon is reflected in the bird's physical appearance. Those which feed on larger animals tend to have a bigger and strong beak and nails for tearing their prey.

Some birds feed on insects. These spend most of their time on the ground pecking around for larger insects such as praying mantises and grasshoppers. American kestrels, merlins, owl and Mississippi kites are examples of such birds. There are also some raptors that feed on aquatic animals like fish. These typically live near the coastlines. Bald eagles are an example of such birds of prey. Many of these birds even take the fish from other animals that also eat fish. Thieves!

There are some types of birds which feed on small mammals. Such animals as mice, shrews, gophers and voles constitute food to these birds of prey. Hawks of different types, such as red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks and others are among the types of birds of prey that feed on such mammals. Other raptors that do feed on such animals include barn owls, merlins, and northern harriers to mention but a few. These birds catch their prey by skillfully hunting them from above. They either perch and watch out for their prey to appear or they hover in their air in search of their prey.

Surprisingly, there are some types of birds of prey that actually feed on smaller birds instead of on other animals. They can pursue their prey while they are flying, or alternatively, they can catch them on the ground. There are other types of birds of prey that feed on large birds like doves, ducks, pigeons, chickens and others. Such birds of preys include peregrine falcon, goshawk and others. Some other birds of prey feed on animals as large as rabbit, squirrels and others. There are others that feed on carrion, like vultures, who prefer to not take chances on live prey.

Monday, September 3, 2018

EAGLES - The Birds of Prey

Adult (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eagles are birds of prey that have large wingspans and strong muscular legs. They also have very good eyesight. There are several species of this bird and most of them are distributed in Africa and Eurasia. With their relatively large wingspans, they are able to fly very fast on straight paths. 

Therefore, they are able to hunt their prey very effectively. They also have heavy beaks that will help them attack their prey. A large bird of this species could easily weigh 6 to 7 Kg.

It has been found that the eyesight of some of the eagles is 3.6 times better than humans. The large pupils of their eyes contribute a lot to this effect. It enables them to see their prey from a long distance. Normally, these birds choose elevated places to build their nests. The female bird which is larger than the male will lay two eggs. When one egg hatches the young bird will wait for the other to hatch and will kill it. Even the mother will not prevent it. This means only the strongest eagles will survive and the population of birds will be under control.

It has been found that eagles are among the largest of the birds of prey. However, there is no way to find the largest eagle for the simple reason that the heaviest one is not the one that has the biggest wingspan. The heaviest is the Steller's sea eagle and the one that has the largest wingspan is the Philippine eagle. While the wingspan of a Philippine eagle could be 100 ft the weight of a Steller's sea eagle could be 15 pounds.

A falconer holding a Steller's Sea Eagle in th...
A falconer holding a Steller's Sea Eagle
Photo credit: 
The smallest of the eagles is the Great Nicobar Serpent-eagle. Its habitat is the forests in the South Nicobar Islands. The weight of one of these birds is just 1 pound. Due to loss of habitat, it is dwindling in numbers and is threatened species. It is the different lifestyles of these birds that decide their wingspans. Generally, the birds that inhabit forests have smaller wingspans. Birds of this species that live in open areas have relatively longer wingspans.

Only a very few species of birds of prey are larger than eagles with either wingspan or the weight. Condor is one of them. Also, there are a few other vultures that are larger than these birds of prey. They are majestic birds when they are on a flight.

Friday, April 20, 2018

BALD EAGLE: Bird of Majesty

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having grown up in the United States, I have seen pictures of bald eagles all my life but I had never seen one. When I went to Alaska recently, I knew this was my chance to see this wonderful bird. Bald eagles are native to North America and live throughout out Canada, the continental United States and northern Mexico but they are especially plentiful in Alaska.

I went to the Chilkoot River where salmon are restricted as they go through a fishing weir and I waited to see my bald eagles. I saw a brown bear mother and two cubs and I saw some seagulls. Then I heard a whishing in the air and looked up. A bald eagle came flying in and landed thirty feet above my head on the branch of a tree. It was then that I noticed its mate who had been sitting in the tree all the time. They sat there and called back and forth to each other for about twenty minutes. Since bald eagles mate for life I could imagine this pair saying, "Where have you been all day?" "I was out getting materials for the nest and fishing." I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private eagle conversion and was enthralled with the view I had been given into an eagle's daily life.

I developed my interest in bald eagles back in 1967 when this eagle was declared endangered in the 48 contiguous states. It was hard to imagine that a bird that had numbered 300,000 to 500,000 in the early 18th century had only 412 mating pairs in the mid-twentieth century. What had happened to reduce the population so severely? Several things had happened. Eagles and other birds of prey were adversely affected by the use of DDT. DDT didn't kill the birds but it affected their calcium production. The shells on their eggs were too thin to survive these large birds sitting on them. Also, people hunted these birds for sport and also to protect lakes and other fishing areas from these remarkable fishermen. Lost of habitat was another factor in the decline of the bald eagle.

In 1972, the use of DDT was banned in the USA and about the same time strong limits were put on DDT's use in Canada. The passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1972 also assisted in the rapid recovery of the bald eagle in the lower 48 states. In 2007, this magnificent bird was removed from the list of endangered or threatened species. It is now protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty. The remarkable recovery from a listing of endangered to a listing of least concern in just 40 years is an environmental success story.

Bald eagles are very impressive birds. These birds weigh 10 to 14 pounds and can have a wingspan of 66 to 96 inches. They can lift about 4 pounds. Unlike many species, the female is generally larger than the male. Their yellow eyes are about the size of a human eye but 4 times sharper. As birds go they have longevity; they can live for 20 or 30 years, even longer in captivity. They sexually mature at about 4 or 5 years. It is at this time they develop their white head, neck, and tail plus their yellow feet and beak.

An eagle is most majestic when it is flying. They ride the thermals or rising currents of warm air. They can soar to an altitude of 10,000 feet and achieve speeds of 30 to 35 mph. Their dive speed can be between 75 and 95 mph. Talon clasping or cartwheeling is amazing behavior. Two eagles will grasp talons in mid-air and tumble and spin downward, letting go just before reaching the ground. Some think this is a courtship ritual and others think it is a territorial battle. Whichever it is, it is amazing to watch.

The bald eagle is an opportunistic feeder which eats primarily fish but will eat carrion, small animals, and even steal from other birds. Watching an eagle swoop down and grab a fish out of the water as it flies by fills one with awe. The eagle doesn't even slow down. Eagles living in warmer climates generally don't migrate. Those who live near water that may freeze will migrate to open water so they may continue to hunt fish during the winter months. If the fish are plentiful, bald eagles will gather in large numbers around the feeding ground. In the winter, hundreds may be found along the open waters in Alaska and British Columbia.

Throughout history, eagles have been the symbol of power for nations or gods. An eagle standard led the Roman legions into battle. Both the Norse god Odin and the Greek god Zeus were represented by eagles. Eagles have also been symbols of Germany, Austria, and Russia. An eagle is found on the Mexican coat of Arms. The eagle is also important in many Native American religions. Feathers and claws of the bald and golden eagles are used by many tribes in their religious regalia and ceremonies.

On June 20, 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States of America because of its long life, great strength, and majestic looks. It also was native to North America. The image of the bald eagle is found on the Great Seal of the United States. It holds an olive branch with 13 leaves in one talon and a quiver of 13 arrows in the other. The eagle's beak holds a banner reading E Pluribus Unum (out of many one). An impression of the bald eagle is found on many US coins. Not everyone agreed that this bird was a good choice as a national symbol because it was reputed to be a bird of "bad moral character." Among those who disagreed with the selection were Benjamin Franklin and James John Audubon.

There is no way to entice a bald eagle to come to your yard. His world is much bigger than your yard. If you want to see bald eagles you must go where there is water, fish, and forest and hope that he also finds this place satisfactory. If you and the bald eagle are in the same area at the same time, she will put on quite a show. The bald eagle is magnificent as he flies through the air, amazing as she cartwheels toward the ground and regal as a couple sits high in a tree viewing their vast domain. I am glad that the bald eagle is now in full flourish throughout most of North America and that it is no longer endangered. Many more of us now have a chance to see this magnificent bird near our home.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The PEREGRINE FALCON - The Teflon Bird of Prey

Peregrine Stretching Wings
Photo  by jkirkhart35 
"Look up! It's a bird.....It's a plane......It's The Peregrine Falcon!" Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Superman was a fictitious character, as was Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon, and although very popular and very entertaining, was no match for a real, super bird called the Peregrine Falcon. 

This creature is one of the most powerful and fast-flying bird there is. The Peregrine Falcon probably has one of the longest migrations of any bird in North America. Covering as much as 15,500 miles in one year over two different continents, spanning North and South America, hence the meaning of the falcon's name, "wanderer" or the scientific name of "Falco pereginus."

This is an incredible flier! You will find that these Falcons are averaging 25-34 miles per hour in traveling flight and as fast as 69 miles per hour in direct pursuit of prey with a hunting stoop from heights of over .62 miles! I don't even know if a Geo Spectrum could cruise at that speed. After reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour, they will drop toward their prey and kill it by biting into the neck of a passing songbird, duck and occasionally bats. OUCH!!! These falcons are so acrobatic, they can even catch their prey in mid-air. What a feat!!!

The Peregrine Falcon's habitat is comprised of every continent in the world save Antarctica and on many oceanic islands making them one of the most widely distributed species in the world. What proof is there that shows the durability of this bird? It has been proven that the falcon can survive in a wide range of areas of habitat to include: urban cities, deserts, the tundra and the tropics. They remind me of people who live in the state of Maine and then travel to Florida in the winter because the Peregrine Falcon will migrate super long distances from where they reside in the winter, to their summer nesting areas on the globe. Who knows? They may have even bought into "Time Shares."

Have you ever been in a big city and see an image of a hawk or eagle on a skyscraper? There is a stark parallel to real habits of these falcons that are illustrated high atop those buildings. For instance, Peregrine Falcons have done a great job in adapting to living in many of our cities in the United States of America. They have the ingenuity to make use of tall skyscrapers and buildings that have suitable ledges for nesting. They display their desire for cuisine variety in their meals by making use of their neighbors, the pigeon, and starlings, in the cities for their food supply. What a tasty and scrumptious treat for these Teflon birds.

These Peregrine Falcons are very intelligent and trainable also. This has always been one of the most prized birds amongst men. People have used and trained these birds for hunting, as well as message carriers. In 1940, the Federal Government issued an order to cull these Peregrine Falcons bringing about the death of 600 birds. One reason may have been because in the second World War, the armed forces used over 200,000 homing pigeons as message carriers which were also on the menu of these falcons. This was part of the reason for the decline in these fabulous birds. Populations began a rapid decline from 1950 - the 1970's because of DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane) poisoning. This poisoning effected The Peregrine Falcon eggs, causing thinning and making them susceptible to breakage during incubation. Not to mention other birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle and the Great-horned owl would occasionally kill peregrine falcon chicks. At this point, they made the Endangered Species list and by 1970 extensive efforts were made to reestablish the birds' population. Man driven efforts to breed the Peregrine in captivity began to make a difference to this almost "down for the count" bird. This is why we consider them the "Teflon" bird of prey. They have made an awesome come back. By 1999, the peregrine falcon finally made it off the Endangered Species list.

As we have seen in part, with the aide of man the peregrine falcon almost became extinct and with the aide of man the peregrine falcon has made a tremendous comeback. Let us all be aware and continue to be part of the solution in taking part in the preservation of this "Teflon" survivor. Watch them soar, watch them hunt, watch them perch in their natural habitats. The history of this falcon is one you can share with your children and grandchildren for ages to come.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A History of FALCONRY

Medieval people engaging in falconry from hors...
Medieval people engaging in falconry on horseback. The horses appear to have the body type of palfreys or jennets. from the Codex Manesse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Falconry is training birds of prey to hunt game. Falconry is also known as hawking, despite the fact that in falconry today buzzards are usually used.

It is thought that falconry was established in the Middle East by 2000 BC although the earliest evidence of falconry has only been found from about 700 BC.

There are references to Caesar using falcons to kill pigeons so we know that the Romans practiced falconry and it was most likely introduced to Europe in about 400 AD.

Falconry is known as the sport of kings and many Kings of England have proclaimed it their favorite sport including Alfred the Great and George III.

Much has been written about King John and crane hawking. He used to bring hunting parties to fly falcons at herons which were ringed prior to being released back into the wild. Information about these herons can be found in the Domesday Book.

During the Middle Ages laborers would also participate in falconry, usually illegally and King John banned people from taking a game from the Royal Forests in order to improve the game caught by his own hunting parties.

He made a law that a hundred peasants should be fed with the catch from every Royal hunt but the law would still have caused much suffering.

A custom in the Middle Ages known as the Laws of Ownership meant that birds of prey were all assigned a rank and nobody could hunt with a bird that had a higher rank than him. The original Laws of Ownership was written in the Book Of St Albans in the 15th century.

Nowadays anyone can practice falconry in the UK and no license is required although only captive-bred birds can be used. Despite pressure to have falconry banned it has been allowed to carry on albeit with a number of conditions attached to it. Birds must be ringed and government registered and DNA tested to certify their origins and wild birds may not be used for falconry

    By Anna Price
    If you would like to learn more about falconry then you may be interested in birds of prey day where you can try out the sport.
    This article was written by the author of British Bird Lovers.
    The author is a keen gardener and amateur bird watcher.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Types of HAWKS

English: Silhouettes of birds of prey (includi...
Silhouettes of birds of prey (including vultures here)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most people can tell a bird of prey when they see one in flight or at rest. Many don't know or cannot tell the types of raptors from each other. This article will allow you to recognize, or at least know about the major groups of raptors in the United States.

First, let's discuss the major groups of raptors, then we'll get into the major groups of hawks. Raptors are birds that prey on other animals, be they other birds, small animals or large insects. Generally, this does not include birds that prey on small insects. Eagles are one class of raptors. There are two common species of eagles in the US, the Bald Eagle, and the Golden Eagle. The adults are easy to tell apart as the Bald Eagle has the black body and white head and tail, and the Golden Eagle is dark brown all over with the less noticeable golden hackles of the back of the neck from which it gets its name. Both are very large birds that soar high in the air much of the time.

Falcons are narrow-winged fast flying birds of prey. Then mostly feed on other birds, and tend to have fast direct flight, except in the smallest US falcon the American Kestrel which tends to have a weaker more buoyant flight. The Falcons we see are the massive bulky Gyrfalcon, the Peregrine Falcon, the Prairie Falcon, the Merlin and the American Kestrel, listed from largest to smallest. Buteos are what most of us think of as the classic hawk. They are broad-winged, relatively short-tailed birds that usually inhabit open areas, though some of the smaller may be forest birds. They soar on broad wings and hunt by dropping from flight or a perch onto prey.

Accipiters are a group of three species of hawks that primarily hunt other birds and take their prey by direct attack. Some use surprise, others just agility, strength and speed. They all have long tails, broad wings, and strong flight. The three species are the large Goshawk, the medium-sized Cooper's Hawk, and the smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk.

In almost all birds of prey, the females are larger than the males. This is presumably to allow them to better conserve heat and incubate eggs, while the smaller males are more efficient hunters and support the female and the young on the nest. See the Cornell University Ornithology web site for photos and more information.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Peregrine Falcon, (Red-capped Falcon) Falco pe...
Peregrine Falcon, (Red-capped Falcon) Falco peregrinus babylonicus Sclater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The peregrine falcon is the best-known falcon and most widespread in the world. However, if you travel to North Dakota, you won't see many and you will not find any at all in Antarctica.

This falcon was on the endangered species list back in 1970 because of a problem with eggshell thinning that was caused mainly by use of the pesticide DDT during the 1950s and 60s. It took biologists 20 years to figure out that the pesticide used to protect plants from insects was the problem affecting these birds and other animals. Small animals ate the plants contaminated with the pesticide, and when the peregrine falcon hunted those animals, the infected flesh poisoned them. The chemical even changed the behavior of peregrine falcons in that it made them stop caring for their young.

The federal government banned the use of DDT in the United States; however, the recovery process took a while because the chemical residue remained in the environment. Other countries which are home to peregrine falcons still use DDT, and that, along with trapping and shooting by poachers, still cause the bird's population to decrease. Today the endangered list still includes the peregrine falcon, and they are gradually increasing in population.

The peregrine falcon is not a very large bird; it is about the size of a crow. It is identifiable by its dark blue to slate-colored back and its white throat. It also has a black teardrop right under its eye and small black sideburns.

Peregrine falcons hunt at dawn and dusk; they will prey on ducks, pigeons, other birds and small mammals. They search for their prey from the air, and when they spot something to eat, they attack, making a sharp loud territorial call. They will swoop down at an incredible speed, up to 200 miles per hour, which makes this the fastest creature on earth. When they target their prey falcons use their talons to strike a severe blow to the creature to eat on the spot or to carry away to their eyrie.

Peregrine falcons are normally cliff dwellers which build their nests far out of reach of people. However, you can find some in cities on top of high buildings. Researchers who study these birds help them with city nesting; they supply certain buildings with leaves and other materials which the Falcons can use.

The peregrine falcon can be found all over the world. Just look out for a bird the size of a crow with dark sideburns, yellow legs and pointed wings when in flight. Hunting permitted with a camera only.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


English: Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)...
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on a bird show on the castle Augustusburg, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The American Bald Eagle was unofficially chosen as a National Symbol in 1872 when the Constitution of the United States was ratified.  It was not officially nominated as such until 1788.  There was a heated debate, led by the great statesman Benjamin Franklin, about this bird becoming the National Bird.  Mr. Franklin wanted the turkey which he thought better symbolized the clean, honest, and more straightforward ideals of the American people.  His bid was lost, however, in 1789 when George Washington became the first President of the USA, and the Bald Eagle was officially adopted as the "First Bird". 

The American Bald Eagle is the only eagle which is native to North America and it's only on its native continent that one may find it.  Alaska, the 49th State admitted to the Union, is home to about 35,000 of the 70,000 total population.  British Columbia boasts about 20,000, and the rest predominantly inhabit the Pacific coastline, with a few scattered throughout the rest of the United States.  The population is heaviest in the Pacific Northwest due, in part, to a large amount of salmon found there.  Eagles depend greatly on fish as the main part of their diets.  They will eat small animals such as mice, rabbits, muskrats, duck and snakes and they will resort to eating carrion (dead animals), if necessary.  However, they prefer that their food is a fresh source and they are partial to fish.  

While Bald Eagles are capable of carrying their food in flight, they can actually only lift about half of their body weight.  Although they can dive, catch fish in the water, and swim to shore with them, they have also been known to drown if the fish is too big and they don't let go of it.  

The body length, for both males and females, ranges between 29 and 42 inches (73.66 to 106.68 centimeters).  The male is usually between 7 and 9 pounds (.497 to .639 stone) and has a wingspan which can exceed 6 feet (1.83 meters).  The female is larger and can weigh up to 14 pounds (.99 stone).  She can have a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.44 meters).  

In level flight, the Bald Eagle has been recorded at speeds up to 44 miles per hour (70.1 km/h).  It can dive (and has been clocked) at speeds of 75 to 100 mph (120.68 to 160.39 km/h).  The eagle is capable of riding the thermal air currents in excess of 10000 feet (3048 meters) and can stay aloft doing this for hours at a time.  

This species of bird mates for life, and will only seek another mate if their "spouse" dies.  They build an "eyrie (also spelled aerie)" in which they incubate their eggs and raise their eaglets until those leave the nest at 12 weeks.  An eyrie, or nest, can be built in the tops of giant trees (quite often aspens) or on a ledge of a mountain.  The eagles habitually add to their nests until they reach up to 10 feet (2.54 meters) in diameter.  The eyries are lined with soft materials such as leaves, feathers, and moss to provide a suitable area for incubating the eggs once the female lays them.   

The eggs are usually laid at the end of April, following a fascinating "courtship dance" in early April, which the Eagles perform in midair.  They dive and climb, and look to be attacking (locking talons, or claws with) each other during this flight sequence.  

After the eggs are laid, the male and the female take turns in hunting, incubating the eggs (34 to 35 days, usually hatching in late May or early June), monitoring the nest, and brooding/feeding the eaglets until they are large enough to fly and leave the nest.  This occurs when the eaglets are about 12 weeks old.  They develop special flight feathers, which make them look larger than their parents, that serve as extra balance (sort of like training wheels on a bicycle) while they learn to fly.  

Hatchlings are light grey when born and turn dark brown before leaving the nest.  Young adults have brown and white mottled feathers beneath their wings until they reach 5 years of age.  At 5 years, the head and tail feathers turn white.  The mature bird is not actually bald.  "Bald", at one time, meant "white".  Thus the name, "bald eagle". Between the fourth and fifth years, the beak and eyes take on the distinctive yellow color.  To see a mature Bald Eagle up close is awe-inspiring.  To see one in flight is an experience to cherish for a lifetime.  

Preservation Efforts 

In spite of the "National Symbols Act" and the "Bald and Gold Eagle Preservation Act," which were both passed in 1940, the Bald Eagle population declined rapidly because farmers killed them for fear of the harm that they could do to their livestock.  Hunters and poachers killed them as trophies and for profit, and many were killed accidentally.  This seriously alarmed preservationist.  Therefore the American Bald Eagle has officially declared an "Endangered Species" in 1947, under a law which preceded the "Endangered Species Act" of 1973.  Until 1995, they were listed as endangered in 43 of the 48 contiguous United States.  Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington State listed them as "threatened". In 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) upgraded their status to threatened in the other 43 states.  

In February of 2006, an announcement was made that the USFWS had issued guidelines on how the species should be protected by landowners and others, once the bird is no longer listed as a threatened species.  Those guidelines include proposals for laws which prohibit disrupting the bird's breeding, sheltering, or feeding practices or disturbing it in any manner which could cause injury, death, or nest abandonment.  Should those proposals be solidified and approved, it could lead to the removal of the Bald Eagle from the "threatened" list.  

It should be noted that even if the new guidelines are approved, the American Bald Eagle is still protected under the "Migratory Bird Treaty Act", the "Bald and Gold Eagle Preservation Act", and the "National Symbols Act".  It is illegal to possess, take, barter, trade, sell, transport, import, or export eagles.  And it is illegal to collect eagles or their body parts, nests, or eggs without a special permit.  Possession of a feather, or other body parts, is a felony which can carry a fine up to $10,000 USD and/or imprisonment and this is very strictly enforced.  However, federally recognized Native Americans are still permitted to possess those emblems which are traditional to their culture.  

One can learn more about these magnificent, beautiful, and majestic birds and how to help with the continuing preservation efforts by visiting the many websites devoted to them.