The race to save the African vulture

In the latest edition of BirdLife Magazine out of Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab, there is a compelling article on the race in Africa to save the African Vulture. It was very moving to read it so soon after discovering the women of the Hargila Army in Assam and their literal saving of the General Adjutant, a stork that also consumes carrion and helps keep disease at bay. The article stresses that vultures are the most endangered raptors in the world. While you might not be familiar with the African Vulture or the General Adjutant, you probably are aware of the California condor. Vultures exist in almost every country. They are crucial part of the food chain and play an important role in the environment. This is why conservation biologists around the world are screaming out for change to save them!

In Africa alone, seven of the ten vulture species are endangered. Many of the issues that threaten the vultures also impact other species. However, in India and parts of Africa, the vulture population dropped by as much as 99%. The author of the article noted that this is ‘apocalyptic’. We are familiar with causes such as habitat loss, electrocution from hydro poles, collisions with buildings and vehicles, the lead used in fishing and hunting equipment, scarcity of food, as well as egg collecting. There are several other threats to the vultures in Africa. One of them is rock climbing and disturbing the nests. Another is the trade in vulture body parts which are used for good luck charms in Africa. The head is believed to bring good luck in business while other parts are used as talismans. The birds are directly poisoned. The last is the impact of the veterinary use of NSAIDs. What is NSAID poisoning? Have you ever heard of it? I certainly knew about its use because I cannot drink milk or eat meat unless it is organic but, I was not aware of its impact on bird populations such as vultures. It is wonderful to learn something new each day! Although I prefer if it is something happier.

The image below shows the many animals and birds that compete for the small amount of food available in Africa.

“Environment of the Hyena Jackal Vulture Group” by Ryan Somma is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NSAIDs are cheap pharmaceuticals given to cattle to relieve them of their pain and to increase their milk production. They are anti-sterodial. It has long been recognized that the industrial dairies in the US keep the cattle in small pens, standing all day on concrete that causes excruciating pain. These cows are also given treatments to increase their milk production. The life of the cow that never gets to explore and eat grass is traumatic and their longevity is significantly reduced.

The efforts in Africa to eliminate the use of veterinary grade NSAIDs as well as captive-breeding programmes are showing promise. Fencing and satellite tracking is gaining ground. Biologists say that it is time to think ‘bigger’. At the same time, the growth in traditional beliefs is spreading in Africa, alongside the use of more modern pesticides. The author states, however, ‘That for all the bad news, conservationists have taken heart from the fact that the decline in African vultures has been slower than the extraordinary rapid collapse that occurred in Asia’.

“African safari, Aug 2014 – 042” by Ed Yourdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Elsewhere in Bird World, life is good on this Sunday the 4th of April. Rising early to watch and hopefully see Tiny Tot (aka Lionheart, Braveheart, Tumbles, 3) have breakfast, the chatters on the Achieva Osprey site probably had their mouths open. A headless fish arrived at 7:22:22. There was some confusion on the nest as Jack stayed with the fish and Diane left for a break. Tiny had already positioned himself and Dad began to feed him. Jack is not the best at feeding the chicks – he is known for touching beaks with no fish – but this morning Tiny got bites. Neither 1 nor 2 seemed interested. They were very busy preening. Eventually 1 joined and Dad fed 1 a bite then Tiny a bite. Mom returns and Dad leaves at 8:01:17. Diane continues feeding Tiny. Tiny awoke with a crop from yesterday but he ate this morning til he could not eat anymore. At 8:12:07 he stopped. There was not a kerfuffle with the older siblings.

Tiny being fed at 7:59 am while older siblings preen. 4 April 2021

Look carefully at Tiny above (far left chick). His little tail is growing and his plumage is changing. A few more days of good feedings and he might be out of the ‘woods’ in terms of his survival.

Diane with her three growing osplets. 4 April 2021

In the image above, Tiny is in the back. You can see his crop. He is standing confidentially next to 2. What a joyous moment on this nest.

The two bald eaglets of Nancy and Harry at the Minnesota DNR nest are growing. Everything is fine on that nest. Harry has learned to feed them and he is a good provider. Nancy is a fantastic mom. Look at those cute little bobbleheads enjoying the warm sun with their mother.

Kisatchie is growing and growing. First time parents Anna and Louis have done really well. The nest is coated with pine to keep away the insects. Kisatchie is healthy and well fed. His plumage is changing every day as he rids himself of his natal down.

I am afraid to say little owlets anymore. Look at Tiger (left) and Lily (right). They are keeping both Bonnie and Clyde busy hunting, day and night it seems. They look like they are wearing beautiful mohair coats with hoods. In my neighbourhood, yesterday, we were reminded about how formidable a raptor these Great Horned Owls are when one of the ones living nearby tried to take off with one of the neighbour’s cats that had gotten out in the back lane. Remember. Great Horned Owls can carry three times their own weight!

And last but never least, my all time favourite bird mother, Big Red sitting on her three eggs in the Red Tail Hawk nest on the Cornell University Campus. Isn’t it lovely? She actually gets to enjoy some sunshine today!

Thank you so much for joining me today. Keep your eyes on what is happening in the Tampa area. There is rumour that 480 million gallons of radioactive water is threatening to push down a retaining wall. If so, this will be catastrophic not only for the people of the area but for the wildlife – including many Ospreys and Bald Eagles that we so dearly treasure.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grabbed my screen shots: the Kisatchie National Forest and the USFWS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Cornell Bird Lab Red Tail Hawk Cam at Ithaca, Farmer Derek, and the Achieva Credit Union in St. Petersburg.

Credit for feature image: “In search of the Maltese Falcon #13 – White Backed Vulture, Malta Falconry Centre” by foxypar4 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s 3 for Big Red and 4 for Dahlgren

The Guardian ran a story, ‘All my eaglets: pandemic audience spellbound by saga of nesting bald eagles’ in its Wildlife section this morning. While the story focused on the growing number of people watching bird streaming cams during the pandemic, it chose to use the example of two nests. The sadness of Jackie and Shadow at the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest in the San Bernadino Valley and the joy of Liberty and Guardian and their three chicks at the Redding Bald Eagle nest. Richard Luscombe really caught the moment – the joy celebration, the sadness and loss. Jackie (9 year old female) and Shadow (7 year old male) are two of the most popular Bald Eagles on streaming cams and yet, their story encapsulates great sadness. For two years they have tried to raise a chick. This year in their second clutch there was a hatch. Heartbreak came when that chick died trying to break out of the shell. Jackie and Shadow continue to care for the second egg which watchers know will never hatch. Last year they sat on two eggs for sixty days before giving up. In contrast, Guardian (7 year old male) and Liberty (22 year old female) are raising triplets and Liberty has, in her lifetime, successfully fledged 22 and outlived two mates. Like human families and stories, every bird nest is different.

Over the past year, I have received (or seen) letters, comments, and testimonies about the birds. It is clear that the ‘bird’ families streaming into our living rooms have become ‘intimate’ friends whose daily lives we share – their joys and their challenges. One woman wrote to tell me that she knows ‘her bird family’ better than her own human family! She is not alone. From the infertile eggs to the cheeping of the hatching chick, people have watched the birds and their loneliness and pain have been diminished. Many of you have written to me to tell me how the birds have saved your lives, including several with stage 4 cancer and partners who have died from COVID. Caring for the birds has lessened the impact of the isolation and has given us something to focus on besides ourselves. ‘A distraction from our lives’ a woman from The Netherlands said.

When the pandemic ends, I hope that all of you will continue to watch the lives of your favourite bird families unfold. And I would encourage you to talk to your children and your grandchildren or the neighbour’s children so they will become interested in wildlife. They need all of us to help them have better lives.

Jackie and Shadow continue to incubate an egg that will never hatch. Many wonder if there is not DDT still present in the soil or something causing this lovely and entering couple so many issues trying to have a little one. Clearly the thinness of the eggs that have broken could indicate that. 1 April 2021.
The triplets at the Redding nest being fed. There is plenty of food and all are lined up nicely.

I received a very touching letter from a woman from New Mexico who commented on the tragic events unfolding at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. She was reminded of a news story where a family went into a cafe for a meal -the parents, a young girl, and boy. The parents fed the young girl and themselves. The boy watched the others eat while he was offered nothing. The boy appeared to be bruised as if he had been physically harmed to the wait staff. The waitress wrote on her hand ‘Do you need help?’ to the child who, eventually, shook their head yes. The waitress phoned the authorities and the children were taken into care immediately. The boy had been abused and food had been withheld for a long time. The woman from New Mexico said, ‘Humans do it, too’. As sad and angry as I am at the Ospreys in St Petersburg, for them it is a matter of having at least one healthy fledgling. The biology books stress the survival of the fittest! Someone who has filmed birds said to me and I have reiterated it many times, ‘If they cannot survive on the nest being fed, they cannot survive in the wild – it is brutal out there’. This morning a huge fish came in but the middle Osprey made sure Tiny Tot did not get anything to eat. Tiny was too weak to fight. I had hoped that his suffering would be taken away in the night.

UPDATE: Tiny Tot was fed at 9:27 this morning. His crop was about a third full. The saga continues.

After my tirade on birds laying too many eggs to care for if they all hatched – and hence, having the situation of the St Petersburg nest – Jack and Harriet of the Dahlgren Osprey Nest in Machodoc Creek in King George County, Virginia laid a fourth egg! You might not immediately recognize the osprey nest that I am talking about but if I said to you that Jack is the one that brings in the most toys to the nest, often covering it while Harriet has to keep busy finding space for them, I think you might know the nest that I am talking about. There was a toy shark or dolphin the other day. As it happens, the first egg is either lost in the nest or broke – there are three eggs being incubated despite four being laid. Last year the couple successfully fledged three and all of us join in hoping that happens this year! Unless there is a problem in the river, this couple has their nest in a prime location for fish!

And to add to the jokes that go along with April Fool’s Day, Big Red and Arthur not only woke up to snow this morning but also to their third egg.

Big Red is eighteen years old. She was ringed at Brooktondale New York, about eight miles from Ithaca. She has known this weather all her life and can deal with it. Her and her mate, Arthur, do not migrate but stay in Ithaca all year long. They have a prey rich territory and both work like a well oiled machine. Unless there is some strange surprise, I expect we will see three eyases fledging in June.

All is well over at the Great Horned Owl Nest on the farm in Kansas. Both Tiger, the eldest, and Lily, the youngest, are growing. To the delight of viewers, Bonnie brought in a very large rabbit to the nest in the Cottonwood Tree. Everyone wondered how she managed. Great Horned Owls can actually carry prey three times their weight – an advantage over Bald Eagles who can carry only 66% of their weight. Besides rabbit, the owlets have had a diverse menu. One food item that might not have been expected in such quantities has been snake. Farmer Derek probably had no idea he had so many snakes on his property! Using March 7 as a date for hatching, we should be watching for Tiger to fledge around 42-56 days which would be 18 April to 24 April. Tiger’s extremely soft feathers – they look like mohair to me – mean that he will be a formidable predator being able to fly without being heard. With his short rounded wings he will also be able to make tight corners and quick turns around the trees in the woods.

And down in Orange Australia at the Charles Sturt University, Peregrine Falcon couple, Xavier and Diamond, are in the scrape box having a conversation and bonding. The conversation might be about their cute little Izzi who fledged three times from this box. The first time Izzi was napping on the ledge and fell out. He was returned by the researcher, Cilla Kinross. The second time he did fledge but then flew into a window and was taken into care and returned to the scrape box. The third time he fledged properly. While most of the falcons would have left the scrape box to find their own territory by January, Izzi appears determined to live out the rest of his life chasing Xavier and Diamond and sleeping with Diamond in the scrape box. It is an unfolding soap opera that is delightful.

Izzi is adorable.

I will leave you with that adorable face. Peregrine falcons are the cutest. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my scaps: Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon Cam, Farmer Derek, Friends of Big Bear Bald Eagles, Friends of Redding Bald Eagles, Cornell Bird Lab, and the Dahlgren Osprey Cam.

Bonnie, Clyde and the Rabbit

The camouflage is so good. Can you find the rabbit next to Bonnie?

The owlets are being well fed and they are growing. Their plumage changes every day and they seem to be constantly hungry. It is no wonder. The eldest, Tiger, was born on 7 March and the youngest, Lily, on 9 March. Just think of them as two weeks old for ease. By the time they are five weeks old they will be climbing around on the branches of the tree and they will be flying at nine to ten weeks.

In the image below you can get a glimpse of the changing plumage on Tiger. Note the colour of the beak. When Tiger was born it was pink. Now it is a lovely espresso black. You can also see the coloured plumage coming around the neck and the wing. Behind them you can see the green ‘8’ of the Garter snake in the pantry and in front of Tiger are the parts of a rabbit brought in by mom last night.

Bonnie heaves the rabbit up and over the edge of the twig nest.

She brought the head of the rabbit in earlier. In total, the lapin was broken up into three pieces but still, the headless back seemed like it was pretty heavy for Bonnie to lift. But she did it! It is certainly a feast for the owlets.

The oldest was doing a little bit of preening and then they both heard mom coming. Look at their sweet faces looking at Bonnie. A happy, well-fed raptor family! And no real drama. It is nice for a change.

This is a quick posting. All is going well at this nest. The owlets are growing and growing and getting to eat a variety of food. They will imprint that into their memory for when they are hunting for themselves. Bonnie is a fantastic mother and with the rains settling in around 4pm in Kansas she will need those little ones to cuddle up and sleep.

Thank you for dropping by to check in on the birds in Bird World.

Thanks to Farmer Derek for his streaming cam. That is where I captured my images.

Eating snakes, eating, and not eating

I wonder how many people have seen a Garter Snake on a Great Horned Owl Nest? I sure haven’t! But through the technology of the streaming cam hundreds watched as Bonnie, the GHOW, tried to deal with just that. Yes, Clyde brought her a snake and it still had the head on it!

At first you might have been fooled into thinking it was someone’s garden hose but, nope. Lily apparently horked a nice big chunk of it and I am pretty certain if Lily had a piece so did Bonnie and Tiger.

Look at how big that first owlet, Tiger, is! You can see the pin feathers on the wings and body starting. Bonnie is going to have a harder and harder time keeping these owlets in that nest bowl.

And I should probably stop saying ‘Little’ Kisatchie. The eaglet in the nest near Kincaid Lake in Central Louisiana, named after the Kisatchie Forest, is quite big. Anna and Louis are first time parents and they keep Kisatchie full to the brim. Today, there were lots of people walking around in the park and the nest was not loaded with fish like it normally is but, look at the crop that is coming on this eaglet! Anna insists on ‘pushing’ the food in until Kisatchie can’t take another bite! Oh, what a contented nest. If every nest could be guaranteed one healthy hatch, oh, if!

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Achieva Osprey nest. And for anyone reading this that gets upset about sibling dominance, then please stop here.

This morning Brutus, the oldest, got all of the fish save for a few bites for Tiny Tot. It is unclear if 2 got anything. A gar came in around 6:05 and Brutus again ate all of it while both Tiny Tot and 2 took the submissive pose. They curl up and hide their heads to protect them from the pecking. The problem is literally a growing one. Brutus eats lots more and grows and then requires more food. Tiny Tot and 2 are probably in sub-par survival mode today.

Intellectually I understand dominance, ‘survival of the fittest’ and even understand siblicide but it sure doesn’t make it any easier to watch. I am not saying that is what is happening here. But with the heat and storms of last week, the eldest has been triggered to dominate all the food, not allowing the others to eat until it is full. That sometimes means they go without.

The image below shows Brutush eating the 6:05pm fish. Tiny Tot is in submission as is 2 on the other side of Brutus.

Tiny Tot has remained in submission. Brutus feels 2 moving and stops eating to go and peck its head and shake it so that it will not come up for food. Neither Tiny Tot or 2 attempt to eat anything.

Jack brought in another fish at 8:02. As might be expected, Brutus is up at the front but it is not really wanting to eat. Diane pushes flakes of fish in its mouth. It is there to intimidate the other two who not having eaten more than a few morsels all day are hungry. But they are not eating. Brutus being there is enough. Yesterday the two held their own and ate but, not today.

And Mom was hungry, too. And so..only mom and Brutus ate.

We will just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. This nest has fooled me before.

Thank you for joining me. Take care everyone.

Thank you to the Achieva Credit Union, the Kisatchie National Forestry Department, and Farmer Derek for their streaming cams. That is where I get my scaps.

Rain and blowing winds

It’s raining outside. The sky is a heavy grey and the flame willow’s bark is a bright reddish-orange in this light. It is gorgeous. But where are the robins who should be pulling worms from the soil around the flame tree? They are no where to be seen. And the Dark eyed Juncos have not arrived en masse either. We wait.

The branches turn green in the summer but in the winter the Flame Willow is a bright red-orange.
“American Robin” by nicolebeaulac is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There is no life in the dreary damp garden except for two BlueJays flitting about. In half an hour it will fill up just when the feeders are being replenished. Sometimes I think the sparrows have an alarm clock set – they are that punctual.

The last couple of days there has been a sadness hanging over the Bald Eagle community. Indeed, it hangs heavy today just like the grey drizzly skies that surround me. Jackie and Shadow on the Big Bear Bald Eagle nest in Big Bear, California lost their first clutch this year. Their nest is about 44 metres or 145 feet up in a Jeffrey pine tree with a view of Big Bear Lake. It is incredibly beautiful. Jackie is thought to be nine years old and Shadow is around seven; neither are banded and both so want to be parents. A Raven ate their first egg and the second broke. They tried again. Sadly, the first chick died during hatch as thousands of people watched anxiously along with Jackie and Shadow on 18 March. They could hear its chirping and must have been so excited. The second egg is now 38 days old. The normal for BE hatch is 35. Last year they incubated their eggs for sixty days and when they finally stopped the ravens came – the eggs were empty.

So we hope and wait. I really hope – beyond hope – for this nest to be successful this year.

And, of course, there are the on going issues related to the Great Horned Owls and Harriet and M15 on the Pritchett Farm in Fort Myers, Florida. The GHOW nest is 274 metres or .1 of a mile away from the eagle’s nest. This has caused nothing but undue problems for the eagles this year. Last night’s attack was one of the worst. The GHOW knocked Harriet off the branch and into the nest but a then off the nes! You can hear the cries.

Lady Hawk’s video shows this from several angles. You can watch the first and get the idea.

Eagle and Great Horn Owl populations have recovered since the time of DDT. Now, there are several issues both related to human activity – the loss of habitat -meaning space – and also the lack of trees adequate for nests that impact the lives of both. There is more and more competition for resources.

E17 and E18 are both self-feeding and they really are the best of buddies. Twins born within hours of one another. E18 might be the Queen of Mantling but both still love to be fed by their parents. They are so big. One of the best ways of telling which is which is if you can see the tip of the tails. The one with a white band, on the left, is E18.

For those who worry about aggressive behaviours, it is now easy to forget that many were horrified at the bopping E17 gave 18. E17 even had to go into time out at CROW clinic! It all evened out. E18 grew and became not so intimidated. That is a good thing. They will hopefully both thrive in the wild. As Sharon Dunne (aka Lady Hawk) reminded many on one of her videos yesterday, if the birds cannot survive in the nest being fed by parents they will never be able to survive in the wild. As it stands, less than half the bald eagles that fledge live to see their first birthday.

Look close. The white band is on the eaglet on the left. That is E18 with E17 on the right.

I continue to tell people that GHOWs are fierce competitors and they are dangerous. There is nothing cuddly about them! Speaking about Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles, the two owlets of Bonnie and Clyde are really growing. The oldest is always ready to try and hork down the mouse that Clyde delivers. In this early morning shot, you can see Clyde, Bonnie, and one of the eaglets. Everyone is doing fine on that nest. Only time will tell if the owls become permanent occupants of what was a Bald Eagle nest.

The daughters of Farmer Derek named the owlets Tiger (the eldest) and Lily (the youngest). In the image below Clyde is on the left, Bonnie is in the back and if you squint you can see one of the owlets, probably Tiger, in the nest. Sweet names. I wonder if they knew that GHOWs are sometimes called ‘Tiger’ owls?

21 March 2021. Clyde, Harriet, and one of the owlets.

The young father, Harry, is incubating the two eggs on the Bald Eagle nest at the Minnesota DNR. You can tell it is Harry and not Nancy because of the dark patch at the end of his beak. Remember – this young father has not fully changed to his adult colouring – he is only four years old! That tree is really twisting and the wind is howling and blowing. Those eagles have had all kinds of weather to contend with, too. But now we should be thinking about a pip! Their second egg was laid at 2:54 pm on 20 February with the first on the 18th. That means that egg 1 is 31 days old. If the rule of 32 days for a hatch applies this young father should be getting excited. I hope that the weather smartens up for them and they have a successful hatch!

Very young father incubates eggs at MNDNR awaiting first pip. 21 March 2021.

The rain and the wind that is keeping the Minnesota nest soaked and twisting left the Bald Eagle nest in Jacksonville soaked as well. Gabby did a great job of keeping Legacy covered up and Samson even brought in provisions during the windy storm.

One of the things you will no longer see on the NE Florida eagle nest is ‘eggie’. Samson came in on the 17th of March and while Legacy was self-feeding, he aerated the nest. As he was punching holes in the base of the nest cup, Samson kept checking that Legacy was busy eating. Then he buried ‘Eggie’ in one of the holes and covered it with Spanish Moss. There seem to be no adverse effects. Some of us thought we would have to strap a backpack on Legacy so she could take Eggie and pinecone with her when she fledges. It’s hard to believe that it was not so long ago when Legacy had Avian Pox. She survived it well. In the image below Gabby has brought in a fish for Legacy. Legacy mantles and feeds herself. ‘Look, I am all grown up, Mom!’ They are all growing way too fast.

21 March 2021. Legacy is self feeding.

And the rest of Bird World seems to be in a holding pattern today. The trio at the Achieva Osprey nest have been fed. They all had good full crops last night and there was not so much commotion this morning when the first fish was brought in at 7:59.

21 March 2021 From left to right: 2, Brutus, Tiny Tot

The people on chat have named the eldest Brutus because of the way that it treats the other two. And, Brutus, was particularly nasty to both Tiny Tot and 2 last evening. Still, they got food and that was really what mattered. Brutus has not been able to stifle their will to survive. You can see all three of them standing up to be fed this morning. I did do a wee bit of a giggle. For many, Brutus is a male name and is associated with male aggression since the time when Marcus Junius Brutus was one of Julius Cesar’s assassins. In this instance, it is, however, highly likely that Brutus is a big female. Watching the Port Lincoln Osprey cam showed me that like GHOWs, you do not mess with a big female Osprey when she is upset. Best to just stay away.

Big and Li’l are doing fine on the Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest. Both of them had a nice crop this morning. There was even a tandem feeding with Mom and Dad.

21 March 2021. Both parents feeding at Duke Farms eagle nest.

Someone remarked at how big Li’l is getting – that is what happens when you get enough food, you grow!

And last but never least – the ‘Brutus’ of the Port Lincoln Osprey nest, Solly, is thriving. She is 183 days old today and she has mustered the strength and the courage to cross the entire bay at Streaky Bay. Well done, Solly!

Thanks for coming to check all the characters in Bird World today. The birds bring us so much joy – and sadness, sometimes. And, yes, uneasiness when we worry about them. Most of us sleep better when we know they have had a good meal. So today, let us send warm wishes for Jackie and Shadow – maybe a miracle will happen. It is too bad we can’t slip an orphaned baby eaglet in their nest for them. I am sure they would adore it.And let’s begin to get excited for the young father up in Minnesota. I hope it is a nice warm day tomorrow for their hatch.

And thank you to Port Lincoln Osprey and their Satellite Tracker, the streaming cams from Duke Farms, Achieva Osprey, NE Florida Eagle Cam and the AEF, SW Florida Eagle Cam and D Pritchett, Farmer Derek, the Minnesota DNR, and Big Bear Eagle cam.

Feeding Time

Sometimes parents feed the little ones and sometimes it is those lovely folks at the rehab clinics. Here is a screen shot of a video at a wildlife rehab clinic. It shows the sweetest little GHOW eating its dinner and the staff being ever so careful for it not to inprint on humans by using a GHOW puppet and tongs. The face of the person is covered as well.

A quick scan around the nests showed that everyone managed to go to sleep with a ‘crop.’ Raptors have crops. The only raptors that do not have a crop are owls. They have this really wide esophagus that helps them to swallow prey whole – think a whole mouse going down all at once! For all other raptors, the crop is properly called an ingluvies. It is a pouch below the esophagus that holds food before it goes into the stomach proper. Scientists are just beginning to understand how important the crop is for bird health. It doesn’t just store the food and moisten it but the crop plays a significant role in regulating the immune system of the birds. After the bird has softened all the food in the crop that can be digested, the bird will do a ‘crop drop’ when their gizzard is empty. Anything in the crop that could not be digested such as fur, feathers, teeth, claws, bones, etc. will be compressed into a pellet called a ‘casting.’ You might have even taken apart pellets in your science classes. They are a good way to study the prey in the area of the birds. When birds are ready to ‘cast’ a pellet, they often do not feel like eating. You might even see them in the process of casting out the pellet as they often appear to be slightly choking, especially when they are young. And you will have seen parents feeding little ones fur and feathers. Those actually help clean the crop.

One of the most challenging things for a first time Bald Eagle mother is feeding her new born bobble head. The eaglet is not strong enough to hold its head steady so it is constantly moving for the first couple of days. Add that to the fact that the eagle has a lateral visual field means that they can see from the side but not directly in front of them. So the mothers have to learn to tilt their head and their beak so that the little one can grab the prey.

The first time mother, Anna, on the Kisatchie Eagle Nest in Central Louisiana took a few days to figure this out. My goodness when she did, the feedings were remarkable. Louis, her mate, wins all the prizes for having a full pantry for Bald Eagles. One day there were eighteen fish. The little one – who just received its official name on St. Patrick’s Day -Kisatchie – is always full. Its crop was so heavy today that the eaglet simply fell over. It is a good problem to have. Many nests struggle from a lack of prey. In fact, many on the chat this morning were wishing some of this food could be sent over to the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest, including me.

In the space of an hour and a half, Louis filled up the pantry some more, just in case!

The little one’s mother persuaded it to have a few more bites. Its crop is so heavy it is sagging. Look carefully if you have never seen a ‘crop’.

The oldest eaglet at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey has secured its dominant role on the nest. Today this worked to the advantage of the littlest who is very intimidated. The older one was fed the last bits of ‘something’. It had long dark feathers. I first thought of a crow but then a heron because of the legs. It is hard to determine a prey just from a pile of bones! The little one cowered and was looking the other way. The older was getting quite full and the mother determined that not another piece of meat could be found. So she moved over to a nice fish. By then the oldest was slowly going into a food coma. At first the little one stretched its neck – it was behind the big one. It did the quick snatch. Then when it realized the older one wasn’t interested, it made its way to a position where it could be fed easier. Oh, it had a nice full crop of fish! Lovely. You might have said it to yourself or even out loud if you have watched these smaller ones struggle that you can go to sleep now that they are fed. It certainly is reassuring to see that large crop. There could be a prey issue at this nest. Let us hope not!

The Osplets at the Achivea Osprey Cam in St Petersburg, Florida had a couple of decent meals today. One was around 9:30 and this fish came in around 7pm. It could well be too hot for fishing during the day. I am reminded that fish go deeper when it is really hot.

I worry about Tiny Tot. And that is because I have seen too many Osprey nests with three where the little one doesn’t ‘make it’. My chest even gets a little tight. Diane is, however, a remarkable Osprey mother. Everyone gets fed. That means that no single Osplet gets to eat til its crop is full and sagging at the expense of the others. Yesterday it was very hot and a fish didn’t come in til really late. Each lined up politely. They did the same thing today. Tiny Tot is the closest in the image and he let Diane know he was there and hungry! If you look carefully you can see his wide open mouth. Mum did not ignore him. Ideally the little ones are fed less food but more frequently but, sometimes the deliveries just do not work out for that kind of feeding schedule.

Clyde, the mate of Bonnie, are the pair of Great Horned Owls that stole the Bald Eagle nest in Kansas. They have two little owlets whose eyes are still closed. Clyde delivers the prey directly to Bonnie on the nest. It is usually a mouse or a vole. One evening he brought Bonnie a hawk! Bonnie lays the prey aside. When she feeds the owlets, she tears pieces off with her razor sharp teeth and feeds them. Within a couple of weeks, the owlets will have grown enough to swallow prey whole. They do not have crops. Their gizzard deals with grinding all the food and they will also cast a pellet of what cannot be digested. They will also be able to regulate their heat. Any day now their eyes should be open!


They were all full last night and some are waiting this morning depending where they are. Wonder if those owls will have their eyes open today?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone who celebrates. Thank you for joining me. Together we can all start learning how to say Kisatchie!

Thank you to the Achieve Credit Union in St Petersburg, Farmer Derek, Duke Farms, Kisatchie National Forestry Service for their streaming cams. That is where I took my scaps.

Sunday Babies

It is Sunday, 7 March 2021. The sun, peeking over the horizon announcing a new day reminds us that it has been twenty-four hours since Bonnie did not eat the mouse that Clyde brought her (5:20 am 6 March). Instead, Bonnie flew to the branch where Clyde was, picked up the mouse, and dropped it into the egg cup. Very unusual behaviour for someone who normally eats that mouse right away! Everyone wondered about a pip or a hatch. This morning at 6:31 am Clyde flew in. Bonnie stayed on the nest and Clyde brought the mouse to her. There was a bit of a conversation between the two. Bonnie is definitely behaving differently and it is possible that some of her movements might have been feeding actions – biting off small pieces of mouse and feeding. All we know for certain is that the usual routine in that nest has changed over the past twenty-four hours.

Sun is rising and Clyde is on the branch with a mouse. 7 March 2021. @Derek the Farmer
Clyde carefully carries the mouse to Bonnie. 7 March 2021. @ Derek the Farmer
Hi Sweetie. Here’s your morning mouse. 7 March 2021 @ Derek the Farmer
Clyde and Bonnie having a chat. Isn’t he cute?! 7 March 2021 @Derek the Farmer
7 March 2021 Clyde flying off. @Derek the Farmer

And just as a reminder, the eagle’s nest is about 1.8 metres (about six feet) across. Look at the size of Bonnie and Clyde. And then look at how well they blend into their environment. Nature’s camouflage is magnificent! Talk about getting lost in the crowd. These owls do that very well. The Great horned Owl will be even more fierce protecting this nest. As I wrote in another blog several weeks ago, you don’t mess with a GHOW! They may look cuddly and sweet but I don’t think anyone should get between them and their owlet.

To give you an idea, the Bald Eagle nest in Fort Myers, Florida of Harriet and M15 is constantly having GHOW attacks. Last night the GHOW knocked M15 off his branch (again). Remember, GHOWs are silent when they fly. They can sneak up on Bald Eagles who will not hear them coming. Lady Hawk caught the attack and the reaction in this video:

And since we are here with Harriet and M15, best have a look at E17 and E18. If you haven’t been following them you will not believe how much they have grown. I will post a picture of the twins at the clinic when they were getting their eyes treated and another one today. Hold on for a big surprise.

The first image is 4 February, just a little over a month ago. E17 is in the time out corner because it has been very aggressive towards little E18 especially around meals times.

4 February 2021. E17 and E18 are at CROW for treatment of conjunctivitis. @CROW FB

If you are going to ask yourself how these two grew so fast, the image right below is 24 February. E17 is at the front and E18 is at the back. They have eaten so much food that their crops look like huge bellies! It could be a crop pop. Oh, and look at how big those feet are. Even so, there are still some dandelion bits remaining.

The image below is 7 March 2021 – thirteen days after the image above. You will see that the twins are getting their juvenile feathers. E18 is at the top looking out of the nest and E17 is flat out asleep on the nest. These two are forty-two days old today. Fledge watch for Bald Eagles is ten to twelve weeks. Oh, my. They are half way grown!

7 March 2021. SWFL Bald Eagle Nest. @SWFL and D. Pritchett

It’s after 2pm on 7 March and E17 and E18 are hungry. E18 is at the top and E17 nearer the bottom. E18 has become the master? mistress? of the snatch and grab. E18 is perfectly positioned watching Harriet rip off the pieces of meat and she goes in for the grab. It is amazing how those second hatches figure ways out to get around the more dominant sibling.

The snatch and grab. 7 March 2021. @SWFL and D Pritchett

This is N24 on 7 March 2021, below. Typically, he or she is close to ‘the egg’. N24 incubates the egg, rolls the egg and is typically just a ‘good little mom’. There is every indication that N24 is in the last phases of the Avian Pox and healing well without any issues to the beak.

N24 and eggie. 7 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF Cams

And another picture with Samson this morning. N24 is twenty-seven days old today. Wow. And losing all of its baby down.

N24 with Samson. 7 March 2017. @NFL and AEF Eagle Cam

Hey Mom! Look. I can fly!!!!!!!! Look at how big those wings are. They are so heavy that in the picture above the wings are relaxed.

Look I can fly! 7 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF Eagle Cam

The two little eaglets at Duke Farm are doing well and mom seems to have any bonking issues under control. Meanwhile dad is working overtime to get fish stacked in that nest! They are so cute. Little bobbles.

Lined up for lunch. 7 March 2021 @Duke Farms

The little one at the Kisatchie National Forest (KNF) Bald Eagle nest is growing fast. Both the eaglet and mom have really worked out any issues with feeding. And with all that fish that dad is bringing in there are bound to be insects. The couple are now bringing in pine boughs to counter that – pine oil, anything pine, helps with bugs and mosquitoes!

Little one waiting for a name. 7 March 2021. KNF Bald Eagle Nest @KNF Bald Eagle Nest

It’s a beautiful day in Central Louisiana. The sun is filtering down through the trees on to the nest. The little one is resting with its mom. So cute.

Warm early spring afternoon at the KNF Bald Eagle Nest. 7 March 2021. @KNF Bald Eagle Nest

Today is the last day to send in a potential name for this little eaglet. A committee will narrow the submitted names down to three for public voting between March 11 and 16. The public’s choice will be announced on March 17, St Patrick’s Day. If you want to submit a name, today is your last chance. Send the name to: nameKNFeagle@gmail.com

Have a great end of the week everyone. Thanks for stopping in to check on the babies!

All the little bird babies

Tonight Gabby and Samson have both been on the nest looking at their little one.

Samson and Gabby looking adoringly at N24. @NEFL and AEF

Observers over the last few days have mentioned how attentive the two parents have been since it was discovered that N24 has Avian Pox. Lesions were first noticed by AEF monitors on 20 February. The lesions became more noticeable and by 27 February many citizen-birders were reporting them in FaceBook posts and videos.

I wanna be pretty like you. @NEFL and AEF

Gabby and Samson look at their baby who was born on 8 February. It is 23 days old. Little N24 is full and sleeping with ‘its egg’.

Thinking about their baby. @NEFL and AEF

Little N24 has a very good appetite. And that is such a positive thing. Yesterday, despite a late delivery of food, he ate really, really well. And today, he has another fantastic crop. The crop stores food. The eagle can do a crop drop when its stomach is empty. The crop is like a holding area for additional food.

Oh, yum. I like it when my dad feeds me. @NEFL and AEF
My mom is going to send an order for more fish! @NEFL and AEF
Fish dreamin’. @NEFL and AEF

The lesion that was on the left side of the mouth appears smaller today than it was yesterday.

Avian Pox lesions. 2 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF

I tried and tried to get a proper close up and just kept missing the opportunities. The nest has several cameras and the best one to get the left side of N24’s face has had some condensation on it. So, it is not easy to compare because of the angle, the distance, and the lighting but it does seem like the right side of N24’s mouth has made some improvement in healing. It takes 1-4 weeks for the lesions to dissipate.

Why is my head still fuzzy? @NEFL and AEF

You can still see N24’s crop at 6:48pm when he is watching some interior decorating happening in the nest. N24 is alert, moving around the nest, eating well, and growing. Let us all continue to send warm wishes to the little cutie pie with ‘its egg’ for a complete recovery.

My parents think the rails need to be a little higher on my crib. @NEFL and AEF
Oh, that fish was good! @NEFL and AEF

Flight feathers are starting to grow on N24’s wing tips. The itchy stage is coming.

Gonna get itchy soon! @NEFL and AEF

In the image below, the little cutie pie is sleeping, sitting up like Gabby, its mom, with its head tucked under its wing. They are both incubating ‘the egg’.

I Wanna Be like my beautiful mom, Gabby! @NEFL and AEF

It is impossible to keep track of everything going on in all of the nests. As Bald Eagles around North America lay eggs or eggs start to hatch, there is a lot of activity. The hawks and falcons are renovating nests and the Ospreys are migrating home. One thing for sure – there are going to be a lot of bobble heads within the next 4 to 6 weeks.

At the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey, chick 2 hatched at 1:03 am on 2 March. Both of the little ones are doing fantastic. Aren’t they cute? Eaglet #1 got a chance to have eel for dinner the other day. Looks like it is fish in the pantry today. All of these fathers are great providers.

Two perfect little bobbleheads. @Duke Farms.

If you would like to keep up with these two (and maybe a future three), here is the link to the Duke Farm’s streaming cam:

The Great Horned Owl that borrowed the Bald Eagle nest near Newton, Kansas is still incubating eggs. Some are expecting there to be a pip watch in the coming days.

Bonnie in the warm late afternoon sun. @Derek the Farmer

Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, often stays on the branch above the nest to protect her and is busy at night furnishing her with ‘Mouse Take Away’. Bonnie and Clyde are fierce predators especially during nesting season. Remember that they stood their ground with the Bald Eagle and did not relinquish the nest once Bonnie had laid her egg. We still do not know how many eggs Bonnie is incubating. There could be any where from 1-5. Bonnie has not given any secrets up! Her owlets will be born with whitish-grey down with a little bit of brown. As they mature, they will become more brown.

Did you know that the tufts (they are not really horns) of hair on the Great Horned Owls are thought to break up the profile of the head to improve their camouflage abilities? Their short curved feathers mean that they are silent night fliers. Indeed, these large owls are notorious, as of late, for knocking Bald Eagles off their branches in the night. Just the other evening, a GHOW knocked Harriet off her branch at the SWFL Eagle Nest and into the nest bowl! GHOWs will hunt large raptors such as Ospreys, other owls, and Peregrine falcons for food. They are equally happy to have reptiles for dinner as well as mice, fish, insects, worms, and rats.

And so happy to report that the mother and eaglet at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest are also doing fantastic. It has been raining alot and this mother is a really good ‘mumbrella’. Both of them have figured out the feeding and the little eaglet is growing.

Oh, I love my fish dinners! @KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Central Louisiana.

And another really good news story. The ‘Old Warrior Eagle’ that had broken its leg and had its beak injured early last fall was down, emaciated, and full of lead toxins. If you are any raptor and have that many problems, the best place to be found is near A Place for Hope in Connecticut. The Old Warrior has been on Clemation Therapy to get the lead out of his system. When he came in, the levels were over 48. Look at the levels today:

This is a huge drop in the lead. This eagle is lucky. Most die. A Place Called Hope FB Page.
Old Warrior and his injuries. A Place Called Hope FB Page.

He is going to be so excited to be outside in the aviary!

Look at that face. And those beautiful big eyes of this Peregrine Falcon. He was attacked by a cat. And, lucky for him, he is there in the same clinic with the Old Warrior. Get well soon! You are adorable. I could just scoop you up and take you home. Would you like to live in Canada?

Please keep your cats inside! A Place Called Hope

Take care everyone. Thanks for dropping by and for caring about all of the wildlife.

Thank you to A Place Called Hope for the images on their FB Page. Thank you to the KNF Eagle Nest, Duke Farms, NEFL and the AEF and Derek the Farmer for their streaming Cam. Those streams provided the screen captures.