ABC Bird of the Week:  Snail Kite
The Snail Kite has one of the most specialized tools among raptors: a long, deeply curved beak designed to pull snails—the birds’ main food—out of their shells. This specialized diet restricts the Snail Kite to wetlands, so if that habitat is destroyed, the bird declines.
When hunting, Snail Kites fly low over marshlands, plunging down to snatch snails from just under the water or from vegetation. They then return to a favorite perch to feed. Although common in Latin America, the species is a federal and state endangered species in the United States.
Snail Kites are gregarious and may congregate in flocks at roost sites (as this recording from Brazil demonstrates) or while foraging for food. The birds also nest in colonies in low trees and bushes, usually over water. This species is markedly dimorphic: males are a dark blue-gray with striking red legs and females are streaked brown and white, with a white eyebrow line…
(read more: American Bird Conservancy)
 photograph by R.J. Wiley

ABC Bird of the Week:  Snail Kite

The Snail Kite has one of the most specialized tools among raptors: a long, deeply curved beak designed to pull snails—the birds’ main food—out of their shells. This specialized diet restricts the Snail Kite to wetlands, so if that habitat is destroyed, the bird declines.

When hunting, Snail Kites fly low over marshlands, plunging down to snatch snails from just under the water or from vegetation. They then return to a favorite perch to feed. Although common in Latin America, the species is a federal and state endangered species in the United States.

Snail Kites are gregarious and may congregate in flocks at roost sites (as this recording from Brazil demonstrates) or while foraging for food. The birds also nest in colonies in low trees and bushes, usually over water. This species is markedly dimorphic: males are a dark blue-gray with striking red legs and females are streaked brown and white, with a white eyebrow line…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

 photograph by R.J. Wiley

Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus)
… are the fastest members of the animal kingdom. When preying on other birds, peregrines can dive through the air at speeds of over 200 mph! Usually, the impact from the dive (or stoop) will kill or stun the prey, and then the peregrine will retrieve the prey in mid-air. This fearless species also happens to be one of the most common and widespread birds of prey in the world. 
(via: Grand Teton National Park - WY, USA)

Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus)

… are the fastest members of the animal kingdom. When preying on other birds, peregrines can dive through the air at speeds of over 200 mph! Usually, the impact from the dive (or stoop) will kill or stun the prey, and then the peregrine will retrieve the prey in mid-air. This fearless species also happens to be one of the most common and widespread birds of prey in the world.

(via: Grand Teton National Park - WY, USA)

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge - TX

Scientists for The Peregrine Fund have located a natural nest in use by a pair of Aplomado Falcons (Falco femoralis) at the refuge, in a yucca. These birds have primarily been using the artificial nest boxes provided for them which have a cover to prevent predation by great horned owls. So far all looks good with these nestlings. This species was once extirpated from much of their range in the SW United States, but is once again doing well because of conservation efforts.

photo credit: Larry Ditto (x)

Houston Audubon Beak of the Week: Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) Family: (Accipitridae) Hawks and Allies  These sleek-looking birds or prey can sometimes look falcon like in flight. The in-flight identification characteristics for adults include long pointed wings with dark wing tips (primaries), mostly dark to black tail, pale gray body, and a pale gray to pearl white head with a prominent dark eye area. You will often see the upper parts of the bird which show a blue gray body, dark wing tips and tail, and the pale gray to whitish secondaries of the wings may “flash” in the sun as white patches in the wings.  This graceful aerialist of southern skies is most often observed in the Houston area as it migrates along the coast each spring and fall. It is a tremendous joy to watch the acrobatic maneuvers of this elegant bird as it pursues and feeds on airborne insects.Photograph by Greg Lavaty
(via: Houston Audubon)

Houston Audubon Beak of the Week:

Mississippi Kite (
Ictinia mississippiensis)

Family: (Accipitridae) Hawks and Allies

These sleek-looking birds or prey can sometimes look falcon like in flight. The in-flight identification characteristics for adults include long pointed wings with dark wing tips (primaries), mostly dark to black tail, pale gray body, and a pale gray to pearl white head with a prominent dark eye area. You will often see the upper parts of the bird which show a blue gray body, dark wing tips and tail, and the pale gray to whitish secondaries of the wings may “flash” in the sun as white patches in the wings.

This graceful aerialist of southern skies is most often observed in the Houston area as it migrates along the coast each spring and fall. It is a tremendous joy to watch the acrobatic maneuvers of this elegant bird as it pursues and feeds on airborne insects.

Photograph by Greg Lavaty

(via: Houston Audubon)

itsmeritesh

itsmeritesh:

While driving toward a particular rocky hill in the Greater Rann of Kutch, we saw this magnificent raptor sitting right on top. The Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) is a big bird, about  60 to 80 cms in size, and is hard to miss. These raptors are migratory birds who spend their summers in the Steppes and then head south for winter. The ones that reside in the Mongolian and Russian region, migrate to India during the winter, crossing the mighty Himalayas in their journey. It generally prefers dry desert like surroundings and its diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds. 

Birdlife states that their population is decreasing and puts estimates of around 1 bird per 100 sq km radius. The best place to sight them is in their migratory path, where they form flocks of hundreds while crossing tricky terrain or feeding sites. 

image

astronomy-to-zoology

astronomy-to-zoology:

Pygmy Falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus)

Also known as the African Pygmy Falcon, P. semitorquatus is a small species of falcon, that occurs in eastern and southern Africa. The population in eastern Africa (P. s. castanotus) occurs from Sudan to Somalia south to Uganda and Tanzania. The population in southern Africa (P. s. semitorquatus) occurs from Angola to South Africa.

True to its common name P. semitorquatus is very small at only 19-20 cm long, making it the smallest raptor in Africa. Pygmy falcons typically inhabit dry bush habitats and will feed on insects, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Pygmy falcons will usually in the nests of weavers, and even though they feed on bird will rarely go after their weaver neighbors.

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Falconiformes-Falconidae-Polihierax-P. semitorquatus

Images: Steve Garvie and Bob

Have you seen? We have bald eagle babies!

Our National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in partnership with the Outdoor Channel provides a Live Eagle Cam to stream the activities of an eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the NCTC grounds. The nest has been active since 2006, fledging several juvenile bald eagles. The eagles return to the nest for the winter season around mid-January, with eggs being laid in early February that hatched this year in late March.

Follow updates here and the live feed: http://www.fws.gov/nctc/cam and on Twitter at ‪#‎LiveEagleCam‬

Another great live eagle cam from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/) has also been capturing viewers’ attention shown recently on ABC News: http://abcn.ws/1hvPrxY

Photos: Two eaglets and mom. (USFWS)

(via: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)