Friday, February 14, 2014

Eagles and Owls and Hawks, Oh My! --Birding Adventure, Week 3

Birds of prey are on the docket for this week's session of Birds of Southern Wisconsin! Raptors such as these are cool because many of them stay in Wisconsin in the winter and they are big, amazing birds that are more common than you might think. Let's explore some of their habitats and places that you might encounter these awesome specimens.

Sharp-shinned Hawk--Note the
squared edges of its tail
Cooper's Hawk--Its tail is
more rounded
Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawk species in North America and have adapted very well to urban settings. While they do hunt small mammals like mice and voles, their diet is approximately 90% songbirds.
Anything smaller than an American Robin is fair game to these guys, though they have been known to eat birds that are a bit larger, as well. Once this past fall, I saw two Sharp-shinned Hawks on two different telephone poles right in the middle of the Brentwood Village on the North side of Madison. Spotting a Sharp-shinned can be as easy as looking out your front window! The females, as in most species of hawks, are larger than the males and can be as large as a male Cooper's Hawk. Cooper's Hawks look very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but there's a little trick to tell them apart. Cooper's Hawks have rounded tails while Sharp-shinned Hawks have a more squared-off tail.

A Northern Saw-whet Owlet
Turkey Vultures are another raptor that may be easily spotted during Wisconsin winters. They can often be spotted near roads feeding on roadkill or circling above open fields. American Kestrels are notorious for sitting on telephone wires, and even Bald Eagles can be spotted this time of year.

Owls, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to spot because they are nocturnal. You are probably more likely to hear them than see them, but if you go out on a night hike you could be lucky enough to get a glimpse of one. My favorite bird of this week's bunch is definitely the Northern Saw-whet Owl. It is so cute and tiny, but don't let that fool you! It is still a fierce hunter. You can listen to its call on All
About Birds--I think it sounds almost like sonar.

Adult Northern Saw-whet Owl

Accipitriformes: Cathartidae
Turkey Vulture

Accipitriformes: Pandionidae

Accipitriformes: Accipitridae
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk

Falconiformes: Falconidae
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon

Strigiformes: Strigidae
Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl

Passeriformes: Laniidae
Loggerhead Shrike
Northern Shrike

Some of these birds look remarkably similar, and their only defining characteristics are most easily described by using bird topography, as discussed in last week's blog.  For example, the Loggerhead and Northern Shrike look almost identical except for their size, but the eye-stripe on a Loggerhead Shrike is much thicker than that of a Northern Shrike. It is much easier to say eye-stripe than "the line through its eye," and this is one of the many cases in which bird topography is so helpful.

As always, you can look these birds up and listen to their calls by clicking on their names, which are linked to their All About Birds pages. Listen to the iconic screech of the Red-tailed Hawk or the "hoo hoo hoo" calls of a Great Horned Owl, and see if you can recognize any calls around your home or favorite park!

Happy Birding!
Nature Net Intern

No comments:

Post a Comment