Friday, October 24, 2014

Identyfying the Golden Eagle in Manitoba

Early spring and late fall is the time to be on the look out for Golden Eagles, a very uncommon species in Manitoba. Of course, you always have to be careful to distinguish immature Bald Eagles from Goldens (probably at least 99 out of every 100 brown-headed eagles you see in Manitoba will be immature Bald Eagles) so I am sharing these four photos of a Golden Eagle (prob. 2nd cycle), two perched from front and back and two in flight showing underparts and upperparts. I photographed this bird on a Nature Conservancy of Canada property south of Riding Mountain National Park in early October (thanx Sandra for the nudge – better late than never, eh!)

Things to look for include in this series of images:
*    golden nape patch of GOEA shows in all plumages but can be hard to see on a soaring bird (always look for this feature)
*    small-headed appearance of GOEA, esp. in flight (BAEA head and bill more elongated and “stick out” more from body)
*    the tail pattern of GOEA is distinctive but be aware of the difference between immature that show a very distinctive white band and adults that show much less white in tail (subtle bands) and compare the extent of white in the various plumages of immature Bald Eagle
*    larger size of GOEA sometimes useful but difficult to judge in field and , as always with raptors, be aware of size difference between the sexes
*    typically darker colouration of GOEA than immature BAEA, although this can be tricky to judge under field conditions

Also worth noting:
*    size compared to Canada Geese in photo (they were passing by – eagle not chasing them)
*    regrowing primaries on this bird that give the wing an odd shape
*    for ageing of this bird, look for the limited white in the underwing and the partially translucent effect at the base of the primaries, along with a relatively limited amount of white in the tail (e.g. note how when viewed from underside no white visible but when fanned and viewed from above a white band is clearly present, even though not quite as extensive nor as defined nor as contrasting as a first year bird) and also more gold in the shoulder than a first year bird
*    the sheer awesomeness of this creature!

All the best to all the best!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing the Fulvous Owl (Strix fulvescens)

The Fulvous Owl (Strix fulvescens) is a close relative of the Barred Owl that is endemic to Central America (from southernmost Mexico south to Honduras). As is often the case when one genus has representatives in the tropic and the temperate zones, this tropical species is smaller (41 – 44 cm) than their northern cousin the Barred Owl Owl (48 – 55 cm). The Fulvous Owl is also darker and richer in colour (the word “fulvous” describing the warm reddish brown tones of this bird) and has a very distinctive 6-note song. The yellow eyelids are also an interesting feature that I have not read about previously. This is a poorly known species that resides in submontane pine-oak and montane cloud forest from approx 1200 m ASL to 3000 m ASL. Despite limited data, it is suspected to be in decline due to habitat loss in its restricted range. La Tigra National Park in Honduras, San Pedro Volcano in Guatemala, and El Triunfo in Mexico are some good sites to try to find this species (also in El Salvador). I took these four photo recently in La Tigra, Honduras.

 This last photo shows the Fulvous Owl singing (notice the throat feathers are extended).

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