Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, Kestrels, Ospreys, Owls and Vultures are all considered birds of prey.
In Pennsylvania we have many varieties of raptor, from the large turkey vulture with its dark wing span of up to 70 inches (177 cm) and its ugly red head and neck, to the American Bald Eagles that scavenge the big rivers like the Delaware, the Lehigh and the Susquehanna.
There is an old male eagle who hangs around near my home. One time, I saw him fly overhead with a large fish in his talons. I also frequently see a variety of different hawks hunting for small rodents in the surrounding farm fields. Growing fruits and vegetables can attract vermin like mice and rats and I see evidence of their activities. I am considering putting up a house for Screech Owls. Owls of course, are nocturnal (as opposed to diurnal) hunters, so spotting one on the wing is not common. If they keep the rodent population down I am happy to have them.
The wing span chart pictured above shows the size of birds as small as the tiny, Ruby-Throat Hummingbird to the majestic Bald Eagle.
Today, I took a little drive to neighboring Carbon County. There at the Carbon Co. Environmental Education Center, I met with Susan the caretaker. She shared some of her knowledge about raptors and was kind enough to allow me inside the cages at feeding time.
It is a sad fact that large raptors are sometimes injured by cars or sadder still, shot by ignorant or malicious wrongdoers. The upside of this tragedy is that there are places like this environmental education center willing to receive and care for these damaged birds. This type of raptor exhibition is a fine opportunity to teach people about birds of prey and the vital role they play in a balanced Eco-system. Some of them will never again take flight because of their injuries. However, there are some cases of birds that have been injured and can be mended to full health. Those lucky birds will be released and reintroduced to their natural habitat.
With Susan’s guidance, I was able to capture some terrific pics of these birds.
This site is very informative and has a cool MP3 download to listen to each bird. It is a great aid for identifying birds of all kinds.
Finally, this site is helpful to prepare you for bird watching or birding.