Eagles and Hawks in PA

Eagle Watch

Bald Eagles are one of the largest birds of prey which used to be found all across North America.  Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and the use of the pesticide DDT (which caused eagles' eggs to have soft shells and made then nearly impossible to incubate), Bald Eagle populations dropped drastically across the United States, including in Pennsylvania. 

Through the ban of DDT and other conservation efforts, the number of Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania has recovered.  The Pennsylvania has raised and released nearly 100 eaglets, some of which have returned to build nests and raise young.  While the Bald Eagle remains an Endangered Species in Pennsylvania, they are listed as only "threatened" by the federal government.  The future is looking up for Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagles nest in tall trees usually near water where they can scavenge for food.  Since they like living away from human influence, the area surrounding the upper West Branch of the Susquehanna River makes and ideal habitat for these majestic birds.  Often they can be spotted flying over the river or mountains in remote areas.

Raptors Program

Raptors are carnivorous birds such as owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons.  The specific features that are common to all raptors are their eyes, talons, and beaks. 

Image map of bird of prey

Raptors have very keen eyesight.  This enables birds like hawks to fly high above the ground and still be able to see small animals like mice.  Some raptors have eyesight that is 8 times more acute than humans!  Since the raptor's eyes are so large, they can not roll around as human eyes can.  Instead, they have long necks that enable them to turn their heads almost backwards.

Raptors also have feet that are quite different from other birds.  Their feet have talons that are lethal weapons perfect for catching, holding, and carrying prey.  Most raptors have three toes that face forward and one that faces backward, each complete with its own talon.  Their feet are so strong that raptors could even crush small prey to death! 

A raptor's beak is very distinctive.  It has a sharp point on the end used to grab and tear meat.  Raptors often hold the prey with their feet, dig their beak in, and then pull to rip off a piece of meat.

Pennsylvania is home to many raptors including: Cooper’s and Red-tailed hawks, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and American Kestrels.

In the past raptors used Pennsylvania as a major part of their migration route.  Unfortunately, hunters used this opportunity to hunt raptors.  Today, hunting raptors is prohibited, and these same areas that were once used for hunting have become sanctuaries in many cases.

Wildlife specialists may have live examples of Pennsylvania raptors, or they may have plenty of images to share.  During a program, they will give you the specifics of each bird they show you.  Below are a few examples of raptors that are found in Pennsylvania.  Can you see the distinctive raptor features in each photo?

Turkey Vulture  -  Screech Owl  -  Red Tailed Hawk  -  American Kestrel


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http://www.acb-online.org/project.cfm?vid=244.  2005.  2005 West branch Sojourn.  Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/wrcf/bald.aspx.  2005.  Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  

http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/pgc/cwp/view.asp?a=458&q=150755.  2005.  Wildlife Notes.  Pennsylvania Game Commission.

http://www.soaring.psu.edu/raptors.html.  2005.  What Are Raptors?  Explore Pa: Soaring the Ridges.

http://www.ahc.umn.edu/ahc_content/colleges/vetmed/Depts_and_Centers/Raptor_Center/ index2.cfm/nav/20801/parent/20800/type/F/content_path/colleges@vetmed@Depts_and_ Centers@Raptor_Center@2_Educational_Programs@Lesson_Plans_for_Teachers/ content_name/Lesson_1_-_Radical_Raptors.htm/pic/none/bold/2_Educational_Programs.  2002.  The Raptor Center.  Regents of the University of Minnesota.

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 This site created as a project for Mississippi State University's Teachers in Geosciences program and Susquehanna University's Saturday Science program.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact Brenda Bartlett.
Last updated: 07/02/05.