Hormonal Hawks and other species

Quick correction from the last post from J. Marty Paige:

Hi Sharon, Birders as you have mentioned are often thought of as Geeks. ( Geeks do rule the world, Bill Gates for instance). I just wanted to make a comment on your “chainsaw” post on Birdchick. I believe it is a Circular Saw and not a Chainsaw, not that it really matters. (I am just a stickler for details). Still odd though that it has been up there so long. Anyway, have a great spring birding season.

He is absolutely right. What was I thinking--and I'm someone who loves power tools. Sometimes, I get words crossed in my head. I have been known to call out peewee when the bird is actually a phoebe, and I know it's a phoebe but some kind of wiring is off in my brain that causes me to say peewee. I agree with Marty's assessment, chainsaw or circular saw--it's still weird that it has been up there for so long.

It's noisy in the education bird courtyard at The Raptor Center. Holy Cow! Every diurnal (active during the day time) bird is calling (more like squaking and screeching). The red-tailed hawks start whining back and forth to each other, which gets the golden eagle going (pictured above), who inspires one peregrine to start "per chupping", once one peregrines starts, the two have to scream back in response and, not to be left out, the kestrels periodically trill in their little territory calls. It's nuts. I was taking a peregrine out for program yesterday and as I was crating her, she was calling. It's a great call to listen to out in the wild, watching them from far away when they are on top of a cliff or skyscraper. When they are a few inches from your ear, it's not so fun.

When I was taking a group around for a tour, the group was very intrigued why this hawk (pictured right) was hunkered down on top of her hutch. She had laid an egg. She's housed by herself, so it's an infertile egg, but it just goes to show the power of hormones. Sometimes the birds will lay an egg, male or no male because their body is telling them that this is the time of year to do it. It's not as much fun to go in and get her for program during this time.

In the raptor world, males are smaller than females. With some species like peregrine falcons and Cooper's hawks it's very obvious, the male can look a third to even a half size smaller than females. With bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, it isn't always so obvious. You can just look up the feathers and check red-tailed hawks to find out the sex, you have to do it surgically. Since it really isn't that much of an issue for us to know the sex, we don't bother with the surgery and make an educated guess based on weight. Now, when the red-tails lay an egg, it's incredibly helpful because we know the sex.