Migrants – Raptors

It’s not just warblers, hummingbirds and shorebirds that we observe migrating. Hawks, eagles and falcons migrate into, out of and through eastern Massachusetts as well. These are some photographs of recent sightings.

Peregrine Falcons are long distance migrants, although a few do reside here year round. But those are the exception as most migrate from the far north to the southern US coast, Mexico and the Caribbean. These fast flyers are a challenge to capture with your camera.

Broad-winged Hawks are transients and we only see them when they are migrating.

I am told that Northern Harriers did breed here in the past. Now we only see them in fall and winter. They summer in northern New England so it’s a pretty short hop to Massachusetts. They hunt small mammals by sight and sound as they fly low over open fields. They have an owl-like face due to the feather pattern than helps channel sound to their ears. The white patch above the tail is a field mark.

Bald Eagles do nest in our area along major rivers and large bodies of water. But the numbers increase in winter as Eagles move south to find open water when rivers, ponds and lakes freeze. This is a young Bald Eagle. It takes about 5 years for them to fully develop the white head of an adult. We spotted this one after it put every duck, heron, egret and shorebird into flight as it approached. When lots of birds take to the air at the same time, we always look around for a hawk, falcon or eagle.

Red-tailed Hawks are residents. However, some of them that live further north in Canada will move down to the US for the winter to find more open areas for hunting. This one was in a tree near my bird feeders, hoping to snatch a squirrel or chipmunk.

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