Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Raptors’


New Michigan RAPTORS ID sheets

August 4, 2013

BirdSilloettesMost of the time, when we spot a Raptor in Michigan, it ends up being a silhouette of the bird flying overhead or soaring. Sometimes we get lucky and get a close enough view of the bird, to observe colors and distinct markings. So we put together an updated silhouette ID sheet for Michigan Raptors.

It is a great way to start to become familiar with what Raptors are in the area, allowing us to get closer and actually see the details of these magnificent birds. Michigan has seen an big increase in Raptors these last few years. At Stony Creek Metro Park HIKING Trails, there was an Eagles nest and a Osprey nest withing a 1/2 mile of one another.

Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as any bird that kills its prey with its talons. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh. In most cases, the females are considerably larger than the males. The term “raptor” is derived from the Latin word “rapere” (meaning to seize or take by force) and may refer informally to all birds of prey, or specifically to the diurnal group.

The diurnal birds of prey are formally classified into five families:

  • Accipitridae: hawks, eagles, buzzards, harriers, kites and Old World vultures
  • Pandionidae: the Osprey (sometimes classified as subfamily Pandioninae of the previous family)
  • Sagittariidae: the Secretary Bird
  • Falconidae: falcons and caracaras
  • Cathartidae: New world vultures including condors.

The nocturnal birds of prey – the owls – are classified separately as members of two extant families of the order Strigiformes:

  • Strigidae: (typical owls)
  • Tytonidae: (barn and bay owls).

Types of Birds of Prey

* Eagles tend to be large birds with long, broad wings and massive feet. Booted eagles have legs and feet feathered to the toes and build very large stick nests.
* Ospreys, a single species found worldwide that specializes in catching fish, and builds large stick nests.
* Kites have long wings and relatively weak legs. They spend much of their time soaring. They will take live vertebrate prey but mostly feed on insects or even carrion.
* The true Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that usually belong to the genus Accipiter (see below). They are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. They usually have long tails for tight steering.
* Buzzards are medium-large raptors with robust bodies and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo (also commonly known as “hawks” in North America).
* Harriers are large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long thin legs. Most use a combination of keen eyesight and hearing to hunt small vertebrates, gliding on their long broad wings and circling low over grasslands and marshes.
* Vultures are carrion-eating raptors of two distinct biological families, each occurring in only the Eastern Hemisphere (Accipitridae) or the Western (Cathartidae). Members of both groups have heads either partly or fully devoid of feathers.
* Falcons are small to medium-size birds of prey with long pointed wings. Unlike most other raptors, they belong to the Falconidae, rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. Instead of building their own nests, falcons appropriate old nests of other birds, but sometimes they lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows. Caracaras are a distinct subgroup of the Falconidae unique to the New World, and most common in the Neotropics – their broad wings, naked faces and appetites of a generalist suggest some level of convergence with either the Buteos or the vulturine birds, or both.
* Owls are variable-sized, typically night-specialized hunting birds. They fly with extremely little audible turbulence due to special feather structure and have particularly acute hearing.

Download our recently updated Michigan Raptors silhouette sheets here:




Amateur to Pro – Springtime Birding

March 18, 2013

You must be seeing all the various articles and postings from Birders here in Michigan, who are all excited about the Spring Birding and Migrations. I have enough Birding knowledge to make me dangerous. :-0 But I will try to explain just what all the excitement is all about. Migration is never over. There are birds moving all around the world all the time. However spring and fall migration is when a lot of birds shift to different territories.

flock-bigFirst….in the Spring, when most Birds are looking for mates and then settling into nesting, they are very active and do alot of singing. This singing is pretty much held to this Springtime mating, and is both territorial and for mating purposes. In the Fall, with the conditions being similar, we get another short period of time, when the Birds will be singing much more then normal. After the Spring mating time, alot of the singing commotions cease or are cut down tremendously.

There is a debate on whether most of this Springtime sons are beautiful tunes to attract mates…..or……commands to get away from my territory and eligible females. I would like to believe these many songs are mate orientated. But I read alot that they are more towards aggressive songs demanding an area for themselves, and the food and females in that area.

The second big reason for excitement for the Springtime Birding activities, is the migrational return of many different species. Some species of Birds all migrate to another region of the state or country during the winter months here in Michigan. Some leave a few members of their species behind, while the majority will migrate. Like Herons, Geese, some Ducks and many others, who just seem to know how many of their species can remain and have the habitat sustain these few, while the remainder migrate to warmer climates.

I always wondered how this is decided. Is there a group meeting in the Fall, where a small committee selects who will stay here and who will migrate? Does this change each year. Like Larry went last year, so he gets to stay this year? 🙂  Not sure how this works, and I have not yet gotten an answer from anyone that solves this mystery for me.

The Spring migrations can be a wonderful sight and experience. Large groups of different species of Birds, flying in from warmer climates, and then dispersing into smaller groups as they get further north.

BIRDobservationlocationsYou may hear many people talking about Lake Erie during this migrations time. That is because many birds use the great Lakes as navigational beacons for their travels. There are quite a few different species that follow the shoreline of Lake Erie, north up the Detroit river or Huron river, and then start to disperse into their different regions in smaller groups. Catching the main groups as they come up from Lake Eries can be some amazing stuff. Seeing hundreds of birds of the same species, who normally do not gather in such numbers except during migrations, can be a beautiful sight. And a chance to see activity that normally one would not see while just wandering the Forest or Meadows later in the summer, looking for pairs or a single bird.




So…..this is just some of the reasons for all the excitement during these Springtime migrations, mating and nesting periods in the Birding world. I know I got some of this right. 🙂 But I hope that the more experienced Birders will clock in here and add to this posting and correct or add further info to this special Birding time of year.

Pull out those Binoculars, get the camera cleaned up and polish up on those calls, and get some of the best Birding going at anytime of the year, here in Spring in Michigan.

An excellent place for just a ton of info about where to observe Migrations and Birds in general is:  BIRDING SITES IN SOUTHEASTERN MICHIGAN & VICINITY  You will also find many Links to Birding groups on this web site. Michigan Audubon and it’s many subsidiaries, and all those smaller Birding groups spread out through out our state of Michigan.

An interesting way to follow the annual Bird Migrations through the latest technological means is through the Migrations RADAR systems. There is an excellent Blog that shows the up to date Radar reading of actual flocks of moving Birds. these flocks are large enough to show up on these tweaked Radar systems. A very interesting way to be where the Birds are at.  CHECK THE BLOG WOODCREEPER


Another way to stay in touch with what is happening right here in Southeastern Michigan, is to check with a couple of the local fanatics (I say this with great respect) who are out constantly looking for that special Bird, or following the Migration patterns, or just taking pictures of all the different birds they can find. A couple of good friends of HM, and avid Birders with Blog sites are:


Janet Hug –                                                                   Dr.BobBlog


and Dr. Bob –


Here are a few other useful Bird Links from Dr.Bob:  DETROIT RIVER HAWK WATCH  And then we have the Biggest Week in Birding at: THE BIGGEST WEEK IN BIRDING    Janet told me that one of her favorites for keeping up on what is happening in Birding is the eBird site. Dr.Bob has talked alot about this site as well. I recently purchased an eBird APP for my TABLET and just getting deeper into all the features. GO TO EBIRD

Speaking further with Janet, she too recomends the Biggest Week in Birding and says further….”You can’t be a birder in the Midwest without consulting Kenn Kaufman and Kimberly Kaufman for their birding expertise. Here is a timeline for spring migration by species”.  CRANE CREEK MAGEE BIRDING   This is a great site because it actually breaks down just when, what birds will be migrating through the area. Pretty interesting way to follow your favorite Birds around. 🙂


The Kaufmans also operate the Black Swamp Bird Observatory web site. Lots of research & education going on there. Check out their  interconnected Blog site here:  BLACK CREEK BIRD OBSERVATORY

If all these Links do not get you out to the right spot to see some outstanding Birds, then you just are not trying. 🙂 So we started this Blog posting with my dangerous behaviour ind limited Birding knowledge (I just love photographing and viewing, but know so little about the specifics) But we ended it with two of the people I most respect in Birding in Southeastern Michigan, Janet Hug and Dr.Bob, both sharing their favorite Links and Birding Info with all of us. Thank You Guys!!!!  See you all out on the Trails, at the Parks and around the Observation Points.


Raptors at the Backyard Bird Feeders

December 2, 2012

Recently, Janet Hug our HM Newsletter Birding expert, posted a Cool picture of a Hawk waiting on a backyard fence, near a group of Bird feeders. I have just started to notice this kind of behaviour over the last few years, but apparently, from all the input I have received on the HM Facebook page on this subject, this has always been pretty common behaviour from predator Birds.

Janet Hug backyard Bird Feeders with waiting Hawk

Janet Hug backyard Bird Feeders with waiting Hawk

I find this very interesting, that these Birds of Prey have figured out that there are regularly available meals, coming and going in a backyard that contains bird feeders that are filled and maintained consistently. Just sit on a fence or tree limb nearby, and wait for the meal of your choice. Brilliant!

Just last summer, near a very used backyard feeder, I seen a nature scene unfold before my eyes. There where Sparrows, Chickadees and Finches, coming and going to these couple of overfilled bird feeders in my neighbors yard. As one group went in for food, others would wait in the surrounding bushes for their turns.

All of a sudden, there was all these shrieks of alarm and excitement. The Feeder cleared out and all the birds that where on the tops of the bushes nearby, either quickly flew off, or worked their way deeper into the cover of the bushes. Something was going on here.

Then……like a bomb from the sky, a red-tailed Hawk came almost straight down from above, with his wings tucked close to his body. He dive-bombed directly into the nearby bush containing many sparrows and Finches, and disappeared inside completely. I never seen this before. In about a minute his head poked up from within the bush as he worked himself the rest of the way out of the bush. When he emerged and started to fly off, I could see he had a sparrow in his talons. Lunch.

A minute or so later, the feeder and surrounding area was back to it’s normal busy/buzzing self. Birds feeding on the feeders and others waiting on top the surrounding bushes, like nothing had happened.

Apparently this was something commonplace for these Birds and after the alert, there was no reason to continue to be on high alert, and everyone went back to the task at hand……feeding at the Feeders. Just another common activity in the day to day Natural world cycles. Pretty amazing to me. Common place for all the Birds involved.



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