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Bird Watching Series: Raptors &Vultures

Have you been practicing your bird identification skills from last week? I hope you were able to identify one new bird outside. If you missed it last week’s Birds of Prey post, click here. This week, we will be learning about “Raptors & Vultures”.  These birds can be seen usually picking away at a decaying animal on the side of the road, in pastures, or near the water. Get outside and practice your bird identification skills!


Bird watching is an activity that is ageless – anyone can learn and appreciate the wonderous bird species. All you need are a pair of binoculars. Let us know if you were able to spot and identify one of these Raptors & Vultures this week!


Bald Eagle

Habitat:

  • Florida has one of the densest concentrations of nesting bald eagles
    • An estimated 1,499 nesting pairs were recorded in Florida in 2014, compared to only 88 active nests in 1973
  • Forested habitats for nesting and roosting, and expanses of shallow fresh or salt water for foraging
  • Daytime roosts are in the highest trees and adjacent to shorelines

Diet:

  • Variety: mostly fish (catfish), birds, and small mammals
  • Sometimes they harass other birds in flight to drop their fish and scavenge roadkill or other available carcasses

Nesting:

  • Protected by state rule and federal law
  • Territorial when nesting
  • Most nests are large and are in live native pines trees, cypress trees, oaks, mangroves, or artificial structures (powerlines)
  • Mature canopy trees located along habitat edges, providing an unobstructed view of surrounding areas
  • Return to nest territories in the fall to begin nest building or repair
  • Breeding season may extend to late April or May when young are able to fly
  • Clutch size: 2 eggs (white)

**Fun Fact**: Most of Florida’s breeding bald eagles, especially those in the extreme southern peninsula, remain in the state year-round. Sub-adult, non-breeding eagles migrate out of Florida starting in spring and summer and returning in fall and winter. A bald eagle in the wild may live up to 28 years.

Click here for more information.


Black Vulture (also known as Buzzard)

Habitat:

  • Live year-round in forested and open areas of the eastern and southern United States south to South America

Diet:

  • Road-kills or dead cattle in pastures
  • Black vultures are more aggressive and may occasionally kill or injure lambs, calves, cows giving birth, or other incapacitated livestock

Nesting:

  • Roost in undisturbed stands of tall trees, including sycamores, pines, hickories, oaks, junipers, and bald cypress, as well as structures like electrical pylons
  • No nests are built
    • Deposit their eggs on the ground under cover, in a hollow tree trunk or cave, or beneath palmetto thickets
  • Clutch size: 2 eggs
    • Both sexes incubate for about 40 days

*Note: Vultures are state and federally protected as a migratory bird, therefore it is unlawful to harm or kill them without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  If however, the vulture is tearing up a screen porch, or chewing up shingles or roofs, then you may want to consider scaring them with Pyrotechnics. 

Click here for more information.


Turkey Vulture (also known as Buzzard)

Habitat:

  • Live year-round in forested and open areas of the eastern and southern United States south to South America

Diet:

  • Road-kills or dead cattle in pastures

Nesting:

  • Roost in undisturbed stands of tall trees, including sycamores, pines, hickories, oaks, junipers, and bald cypress, as well as structures like electrical pylons
  • No nests are built
    • Deposit their eggs on the ground under cover, in a hollow tree trunk or cave, or beneath palmetto thickets
  • Clutch size: 2 eggs
    • Both sexes incubate for about 40 days

*Note: Vultures are state and federally protected as a migratory bird, therefore it is unlawful to harm or kill them without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  If however, the vulture is tearing up a screen porch, or chewing up shingles or roofs, then you may want to consider scaring them with Pyrotechnics. 

Click here for more information.


Osprey

Habitat:

  • Year-round in Florida 
    • Nesting and as a spring and fall migrant passing between more northern areas and Central and South America
  • Pesticides, shoreline development and declining water quality continue to threaten the abundance and availability of food and nest sires for osprey

Diet:

  • Expert anglers – known of “Fish Hawks”
    • Hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for the capture with talons extended
  • Saltwater catfish, mullet, spotted trout, shad, crappie and sunfish from coastal habitats and freshwater lakes and rivers

Nesting:

  • Nests are commonly reused for many years
  • December (south Florida) to late February (north Florida)
    • The incubation and nestling period extends into the summer months
  • Large stick nests in the tops of large living or dead trees and on manmade structures such as utility poles, channel markers and nest platforms
    • Artificial nest sites that the species now nests in areas (inner cities) once considered unsuitable

*Note: Osprey in Florida did not suffer the serious pesticide-related population declines that occurred in other states in the 1950s and 1960s.

Click here for more information.


Be sure to tune in every week to learn more bird identifications!

Again, if you missed last week’s Bird of Prey blog post, click here

 

2 Comments on “Bird Watching Series: Raptors &Vultures

  1. Ms. Davis, You forgot to include the Crested Caracara. This is a Caribbean raptor sort of rare and new to Florida over the past ten years. I’ve seen one three times here and they are just awesome. Their call is almost a hoarse guffaw, like a laugh, and they have a colorful head crest and a wider beak than a hawk or eagle.

    • Hi Yvonne, yes the Crested Caracara is seen throughout our area. This species is mentioned in the previous post “Bird Watching Series: Birds of Prey”, but could fall under “Raptors & Vultures” as well. It’s great to hear from a fellow bird watcher, keep up the great work!

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