Some swoop down on their prey, reaching speeds of nearly 200 mph. Others soar on thermal air currents in a graceful sky ballet. The Chesapeake Bay’s birds of prey are each magnificent in their own way. Can you match the species below with their descriptions?
A. American Kestrel
B. Bald Eagle
C. Cooper’s Hawk
D. Eastern Screech Owl
E. Northern Harrier
G. Peregrine Falcon
H. Red-tailed Hawk
I. Sharp-shinned Hawk
J. Turkey Vulture
1. Because this bird does not kill its prey, its legs and feet are weaker than most. When threatened, this bird regurgitates its food, which is thought to serve as a distraction. Two explanations for why this bird excretes down its legs are: the large amount of ammonium in the excrement kills bacteria or it cools off the bird. If this sounds unsavory, think about all of the dead bodies that would be rotting in our environment without this bird.
2. This bird has spiny spicules (tiny, needlelike features) on the bottom of its feet to help it capture and hold onto slippery fish, its only food. Because it will sometimes totally submerge itself in pursuit of fish, the bird has an enlarged ceres (fleshy, waxlike swellings at the base of the upper part of its beak) that cover its nostrils when it is underwater. Birds that gripped too large a fish have been known to be pulled under and drowned.
3. Like others of its kind, the feathers of this bird are designed so the bird does not make a sound when in flight. It is the only bird of its kind to have dark eyes. Parent birds will defend their nest fearlessly, swooping, and occasionally hitting, unsuspecting humans who get too close.
4. As magnificent as the bird itself, nests of this species, which are added to yearly, may grow to be 5–7 feet across, 12 feet deep and weigh more than a ton.
5. This bird, once known as the sparrow hawk, is North America’s most common falcon. It preys on insects, small birds and rodents, which it captures on the ground, rather than in the air, like most falcons.
6. This bird’s diving swoops on its prey have been clocked at speeds of nearly 200 mph. Birds living near waterways dine on ducks, while their city cousins sup on pigeons. Once nearly wiped out by DDT, this bird is reappearing in our skies, thanks to reintroduction efforts in many areas.
7. In the days before large, enclosed poultry operations, this bird had a reputation as a chicken hawk; now it feasts on starlings. Development encroaching on its habitat and pesticides have made this once common bird relatively rare. In a manner of “father knows best,” the male selects the nest site and is responsible for most of its construction.
8. This is the most common and widespread of the Buteo genus of hawks. It is often seen soaring over open country or perched high in a tree overlooking a meadow, where, with its exceptional eyesight, it is able to spot a rustling mouse from 100 feet away.
9. Also known as a marsh hawk. this bird is a winter resident of both tidewater wetlands and tidal marshes. Its disc-shaped face, like those of owls, is thought to give the bird keener hearing than most hawks. It flies close to the ground when hunting.
10. This woodland hawk eats small birds almost exclusively. It migrates in large numbers along mountain ridges or outer beaches. It is the most common of the Accipiter genus of hawks in North America.
A-5 B-4 C-7 D-3 E-9 F-2 G-6 H-8 I-10 J-A