raptors of the Klamath Basin Feb 2012
We saw ridiculous numbers of raptors while in the Klamath Basin area – despite reports that it has been an “off” year for raptor numbers. Every day we were there we would see approximately 200 bald eagles, 50 rough-legged hawks (including light and dark morphs), 10 ferruginous hawks (light and dark morphs), 50 red-tailed hawks (including rufous & dark morphs, plus two Harlan’s), 50 Northern harriers, several kestrels, 5 – 10 golden eagles (including a juvenile golden eagle sitting right next to a juvenile bald eagle on a telephone pole!), a few kestrels, a few short-eared owls, one or two great-horned owls, and on two days we saw a some prairie falcons as well. There was also a peregrine falcon that was roosting right in the town of Klamath Falls. The only birds that we would have eluded us on this trip were the Merlin and the dodo.
Lot’s of opportunities to try to age bald eagles, it takes five years for them to get their adult plumage – the familiar white head and tail. Before five years of age they have different feather color patterns that can help indicate how old they are.
This peregrine falcon shown in the first picture below on the left had a HUGE crop, it looked like it was growing a second head! The second picture is a nice comparison of the silhouettes of a buteo (in this case a red-tailed hawk) and a falcon (here a prairie falcon). Soaring hawk that specializes in small mammals and a fast flying falcon that specializes in hunting birds right out of the sky (though they eat small mammals too).
Though not a raptor, it was fun to see all of the ravens and crows that were flying around in the midst of all these raptors. It was typical to see ravens side-by-side with bald eagles eating a waterfowl kill. We also got a nice look at some tri-colored black birds.
Again, special thanks to Larry Broderick of West County Hawk Watch for sharing his vast knowledge, keen eye, and expert raptor identification skills with us on this adventure, as well as for making this trip possible.