Tag Archives: adaptations

How do eagles stay warm in cold weather?

January 23, 2023: HD sports eye-cicles on a frosty morning in Decorah. An icy fog left everything coated with frost

Each species experiences the world differently and eagles have capacities that are far different from ours. How do Bald Eagles survive an Iowa winter without adaptive clothing and central heat? A cold January morning coated our eagles in frost and left watchers wondering how Bald Eagles survive an Iowa winter. In general, wintering animals – including humans – need to retain body heat, stay dry, and take in enough calories to support winter’s increased energy demands. We humans put on

Birds and Daylight Length

December 20, 2023: DNF and Mr. North

Many temperate and arctic animals and birds react to daylight length. Photoperiodism entrains their physiology and behavior, which helps them respond to adapt to seasonal changes in the environment. Although bird species vary in their responses, daylight length drives the annual cycle of temperate and arctic birds overall. How do birds detect changes in day length? Like many other creatures, they use photoreceptors – specialized cells that detect light and initiate a physical response. The photoreceptors in birds are not

Canada Geese: Precocial versus Altricial

April 28, 2022: The goslings about 36 hours after hatch.

As watchers know, Canada geese are nesting in an abandoned bald eagle nest in Decorah, Iowa. N2B – currently a goose nest – is located about 700 feet east of N1, where HM and HD are nesting. We believe that hatch will begin on or around Saturday, April 22. You can watch that nest here; https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/decorah-goose-cam/. This blog discusses some of the differences between altricial eagles and precocial geese!  Altricial eaglets rely on parental care until they fledge. But goslings

Bald eagle tongues and beaks!

April 5, 2019: An eagle's tongue

We know that bird beaks are specialized for feeding and daily tasks. Birds of prey have strong, curved beaks with sharp edges to help them tear meat. Falcons specialize even further, adding a tomial tooth to help them kill prey. Dabbling ducks have tiny, comb-like structures on their beaks to strain small animals, insects, and plants from water and mud, while piscivorous ducks have saw-like structures to help them hold on to struggling fish. But what about bird tongues or,

Egg Colors and Shapes

The Chicago Peregrine Program inspired me to write a quick blog on the colors and shapes of eggs. Bald eagles have white eggs, peregrine falcons have eggs that range from light cream through brick red, and red-tailed hawks have pale eggs that are lightly splotched with brown. How and why do the birds we watch lay differently-colored and shaped eggs? Egg Colors Where do egg colors come from? Once a bird’s egg enters its shell gland or uterus, it is

Can birds detect severe weather? Storms, cold, and Bald Eagles in winter!

January 2, 2022: Mr. North looks stylish in his wintery down jacket! Subzero temperatures had every one in winter gear today.

Can birds detect severe weather? I’m watching the birds at my feeder as a major snowstorm rolls in. American Golden Finches, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Black-Capped Chickadees, and White-Breasted Nuthatches are decimating my seed feeder, while our resident Downy, Hairy, Red-Bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers clean out my suet feeder. The feeder action started yesterday. Did our birds know a major storm was on the way? While birds can’t predict long-range weather patterns, they have at least two ways to detect and prepare

Eagle Vocalizations: HD, HM, and Morning Song

Final duet: chirps, call and response, harmonizing

HD, HM, Mr. North, and DNF vocalize by using an organ unique to birds: the syrinx, a small two-sided structure that allows birds to make complex sounds. Both sides of a bird’s syrinx are equally capable of producing sound and can be used alone or in concert to sing two different notes simultaneously and complete broad sweeps in pitch quickly. While singing ability and song role varies widely from species to species, a bird generally produces sound by modifying the

Four Foraging Stories from the Flyway

October 24, 2021: Mississippi Flyway

It’s late October and the birds we watch on the Mississippi Flyway are pouring south while local plant and animal populations dwindle in response to diminishing daylight length, colder temperatures, and reduced food availability. How do migrating birds find enough to eat in the diverse, rapidly changing habitats they travel through? Read these four foraging stories to learn more about how birds cope with the challenge of finding food on migration! River Dreaming Picture a Mississippi River lake: a lake

Eagle Eyes!

Human Eye versus Eagle Eye

Has anyone ever called you eagle-eyed? Relative to humans, bald eagles have larger, sharper eyes that see further, collect more details, and produce stereoscopic vision to greatly improve depth perception. A bald eagle’s visual acuity begins with its eye size and shape. Dad’s somewhat tubular eyes occupy over 50% of the volume of his skull, as compared with less than 5% in us spherically-eyed human types.  He can voluntarily adjust the curvature of his large cornea and lens (we’re restricted