How to identify birds of prey such as eagles and hawks in this free birding video.
Hello! Welcome to Expert Village. My name is Wayne Peterson and I'm the director of the Important Bird Areas Program for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Today we're here at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, Massachusetts where we'll be talking about bird identification and some of the equipment and essential tools that are useful to get one started in this incredibly interesting pastime. As with waterfowl, birds of prey, specifically hawks, eagles and falcons, the diurnal birds of prey are often seen at considerable distance in which case actual plumage characteristics sometimes are almost secondary to overall shape and flight behavior. Birds of prey can typically be broken into several primary groups. One group include what we call the buteos. These are large soaring hawks like are familiar red tail hawk and red shouldered hawk. They typically have relatively broad wings and relatively fan shaped tails. The species that we often see either perched conspicuously along the roadside during the winter time or in the case of broad wing hawks, a red shouldered hawks, we'll often see them soaring high in the air, in which case looking for the pattern of their underparts. Their wings and their tail can be very important once we've established that they're a buteo as compared to something like a falcon. Falcons are very streamline with sort of long pointy wings and long slim tails. Their flight is typically considerably more direct and they're less inclined to soar around in circles the way buteos are. A third group are the accipiters. These are typically forest hunting birds with relatively short rounded wings and relatively long tails. Things like the coopers hawk and the goshawk, for example would be good examples of these. In their flight, they often alternate a quick flutter with a glide, so that when in open air conditions we'll see this sort of flap, flap, glide, flap, flap, glide behavioral. That's the group that often includes birds that will come in and steal birds from your bird feeder. So if all of a sudden in the winter time your birds disappear and suddenly there's a puff of feathers, very likely a goshawk or a cooper's hawk has visited your feeder. In the case of a very large birds of prey like eagles, there are complexities in identifying these in that there are immature plumages often look quite different than the adults. The adult bald eagle, of course is a dark chocolate brown with a white head and a white tail, but the young birds are quite different in pattern and show a good deal of modeling both on the and in the lining of the wings so that one has to learn a series of plumages in recognizing those. But their large size is often a good size as to their identity. The peregrine falcon is arguably one of our most spectacular birds of prey. As a falcon, it exhibits all the features I described. If we get a close look at a peregrine we'll see that we have a very distinctive hooded appearance with what looked like dark side burns on the face, a blueish gray back, and light colored under parts. This of course is a species that at one time was very sadly reduced throughout much of the eastern United States as a result of pesticide contamination. Fortunately today, recovery efforts have restored peregrines and we now have them back on the landscape where birders have a chance to see them with greater frequency.