Tag Archives: What bird is this?

Body plans and shapes: identifying birds in flight!

Left to right: Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Adult Bald Eagle, Subadult Golden Eagle

We’re going to be counting Golden Eagles for the National Eagle Center and Hawkwatch International on January 21, so I decided to brush up on my knowledge. Understanding a species’ behavior, seasonality, and body plans can help you identify birds in flight. Bald and Golden Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and Ospreys Bald Eagles: Flat Soar | Driftless Area: Year Round | Favorite Food: Fish | Genus: Sea Eagles Bald eagles are built for soaring, with long broad wings, large wing slots,

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a buteo!

Red-Tailed Hawk, Credit Sophia Landis

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a buteo! But what is a buteo? Buteos are a scientific grouping of hawks characterized by broad wings, short tails, and an overall robust build, which combine to form a bird perfectly suited for soaring. Buteos will sometimes soar for great lengths of time together in large groups called kettles, particularly during periods of migration. Have you seen a buteo before? If you’ve seen a Red-tailed Hawk, then the answer is yes! The

What Bird is This? Snowy Owls on the Flyway!

January 6, 2022: Two snowy owls on the Flyway!

We were beyond thrilled to see Snowy Owls on the Flyway in early January. What are they doing here, so far from their arctic home? We think that their irruptions are linked to food availability and successful breeding. Snowy owls prey heavily on lemmings, a stocky, stump-tailed rodent that might be abundant one year and almost impossible to find the next. A good lemming year is usually an excellent year for snowy owl production, which means a lot of competition

Who Doesn’t Love Falcons?

A Peregrine Falcon

By Sophia Landis From millennia-old burial mounds of Native Americans to videogame protagonists like Captain Falcon, one thing is for sure: humans hold falcons in high regard. So what makes falcons so special? And how do you know if the bird you’re looking at is a falcon? This brief article will give you a few pointers on the falcon genus and help you specifically identify a few of the more widely spread species in North America. All photos in this

What Bird Is This?

January 4, 2021: A Merlin at the North Nest

What bird is this? It’s a Merlin! This surprise visitor delighted watchers at Decorah North yesterday by perching, eating, preening, and showing off its yoga skills before flying away. According to most sources, North America is home to five falcon species. From largest to smallest, they stack up like this: Gyrfalcon Peregrine Falcon Prairie Falcon Merlin American Kestrel Like Peregrine falcons, Merlins feed primarily on other birds that they catch in the air, although they will also eat mammals, insects,

Raptor ID: Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk?

Image of an adult Cooper's Hawk

By Sophia Landis “Is this a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to raptor ID – and for good reason! Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the rarer Northern Goshawk make up North America’s share of the accipiter genus.  Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to ID these species separately, let’s take a look at what they all have in common. Accipiter Build and Behavior Unlike

What is that bird? A Trumpeter Swan!

October 16, 2020: Trumpeter Swan

What is that bird? It is a Trumpeter Swan! Our eagle-eyed camera operators found it yesterday on our Mississippi Flyway cam and we went to ornithologist Tom Prestby for an expert opinion. So how we tell a Trumpeter Swan from the far more common Tundra Swan? Behavior. Our first clue that we were seeing something a little different? There were only two swans. Tundra swans tend to travel in flocks – like snow, a blizzard of white from the north!

What is that bird? It’s a black-bellied whistling duck!

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck on the Flyway Cam in Lake Onalaska/Pool Seven of the Mississippi River

We spotted a black-bellied whistling duck on our Flyway Cam on Monday, August 10th! They are cavity nesters who usually form gregarious flocks of up to 1000 birds, although this one was alone. It was also far, far out of its usual range. E-Bird shows just a handful of sightings in Wisconsin! The Flyway cam is getting busy now and we are seeing a lot of great species. You can watch that cam (and chat!) here: https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/flyway-cam/. Click the images

What bird is this?

August 17, 2019: American Avocet

What bird is this? https://youtu.be/VtOI3-WkTQQ. It’s an American Avocet! This surprise visitor showed up on the Flyway Cam this morning and back in July. When we first started looking into it, I thought it was an eastern bird moving west. But I was wrong! According to Birds of North America: “American Avocets specialize in using ephemeral wetlands of the arid western United States, and are iconic symbols and effective indicators of environmental stressors within western wetlands. Wide-ranging among seasons, Avocet