Elks Club, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America
Hosted by the Connecticut Parrot Society the Featherfest offers a great day of entertainment and education. Visitors can look forward to a presentation by Horizon Wings raptor rehabilitation center, as well as a discussion by Jamie Whittaker on parrot behaviour and living with a parrot. The FeatherFest also offers bird owners the opportunity to speak to veterinarians about their parrots.Children will be in awe of the parrots performing tricks and on display. There will be a number of stalls offering parrot-related goods.
For more information visit www.connecticutparrotsociety.org
Date: 22 March 2014
Location: Elks Club, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has been in operation for more than 75 years and is actively involved in raptor conservation, public education and scientific research. This important refuge for birds of prey features an impressive number of falcons, eagles and hawks, lookout points, 8 miles of trails, an informative Visitor Center, a native plant garden and a bookstore. Visitors to the sanctuary can explore the trails by themselves or attend special weekend programs to learn more about raptors.
Situated in east-central Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary covers an area of 2 600 acres. Add to this the 13 000 acres of public and private lands and the birds of prey are provided with a vast protected tract of contiguous forest. The varied topography of Hawk Mountain offers flora and fauna a variety of habitats. The main tree species growing there include Red Maple, hickory, birches, five oak species and Black Gum. Older sections of forest are the perfect haven for Pileated Woodpeckers and Winter Wrens.
Keen birders will certainly find Hawk Mountain Sanctuary a fantastic destination. Some 265 bird species have been documented in the area since 1934, with over 65 species regularly nesting there. The area serves as an important stopover habitat for some 100 migratory bird species, of which 16 are raptor species. Amongst the migrant birds nesting at Hawk Mountain are Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers. Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks have been seen nesting in the sanctuary, as have Great Horned, Eastern Screech, Northern Saw-Whet and Barred owls.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary does much to contribute towards raptor conservation. By means of their Conservation Science Program they seek to gain further insight into raptor migration, raptor population statuses, and how raptors live in the ecosystems where they reside. The Acopian Center for Conservation Learning was opened at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 2002 and serves as a biological field station, as well as a training facility. Scientists, conservationists and the sanctuary’s personnel can work together here, making use of the GIS map lab, the world’s largest library of raptor literature, the archival storage room, a teaching lab, conference area and office spaces. Members of the public may only access the center on special occasions or by appointment.
Those who decide to visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary are advised to start off at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has a number of interesting exhibits, including stunning carved replicas of Hawk Mountain’s most regular raptor visitors. As you browse through the displays you will learn about raptors, conservation and migration. The best time to visit is between the months of September and November, as this is when the greatest numbers of falcons, hawks and eagles are passing through. The trails at Hawk Mountain are open throughout the year (with a few exceptions), and from dawn until dusk. There is a trail admission charge for non-members, and this fee goes towards the maintenance of the sanctuary and its conservation programs.
The American Kestrel (Falco sparverious) can be easily identified by its unique markings. They have a wingspan of 21 inches and measure 8.5 inches in length. The American Kestrel has a short, hooked beak, and the adult males have rust patches on their crown, tail, breast, back and nape. Their bellies are pale in color, and have dark feathers at intervals, which creates a spotted effect. Black spots can also be found on the wings coverts, flanks and on the scapulars. The immature males have streaked breasts and have predominantly rust and black coloring on their backs. The female American Kestrels are streaked with brown across their chests, and their wings and back are predominantly black. This tiny little falcon might not be colorful, but is the most commonly found raptor in North America.
American Kestrels can generally be found in the stretch of land between Alaska and Tierra de Feugo. These North American birds are also comfortable living in populated areas. American Kestrels are extremely interesting birds when it comes to their hunting tactics. A suitable perch to view the ground from is preferable, but they are not dependant on seating arrangements. These North American birds are very graceful during flight, and can reach high speeds quite rapidly. If an American Kestrel is hunting without being able to perch themselves, they are able to hover over a specific area. Hover-hunting is not favorable though, as they are easily spotted by their prey. American Kestrels are raptors, and therefore their prey usually consists of rats, mice, young squirrels and bats. They will also eat other birds, worms, beetles, crickets and dragonflies. Small reptiles and amphibians may also make it onto the American Kestrel’s menu.
During the winter months, it is believed that the females migrate south first, giving them the opportunity to find and establish territories during the winter months. The females prefer the open habitats, and the males are usually found in the more wooded areas. It seems that their winter homes are not by choice, but having to take whatever area is left unoccupied by the females.
The nesting period for American Kestrels starts approximately during mid-March, with the females laying their eggs, usually four to six, in the beginning of April. The incubation period for a female American Kestrel
is between 28 to 30 days. During this time, the male will hunt on behalf of the female. Another strange attribute exclusive to the American Kestrel, is its nesting habits. They are known to squirt feces on the walls of the nest cavity, which is left to dry. The feces together with the remains of half eaten prey does not make this nest the best smelling home in North America, and it is no surprise that the young kestrels decide to fledge the nest after 28 to 30 days.
The Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is the only harrier amongst North America’s hawks. Also known as the Marsh Hawk, the Northern Harrier is an exceptional hunter. Nothern Harriers are popular with farmers as pest killers and are no threat to their own animal stocks. These remarkable birds of prey have also featured in superstition. In the past, Europeans used to believe that if a harrier perched on a house it was an omen that 3 people would die. Native Americans on the other hand believed that if you saw one on your wedding day that you would have a happy, long marriage.
How are Nothern Harriers identified? These are medium-sized hawks, measuring about 16.5 inches in length with a long wingspan of 42 inches. The wings are somewhat rounded and the tail long. The hooked beak is short and dark in color. Male Northern Harriers differ from the females. They have pale gray plumage that becomes lighter at the underparts. His head is a darker gray. The flight feathers have black tips and the tail is barred with narrow dark strips. The female Northern Harrier has buff under areas with dark streaks. During flight you will see her dark barring on the flight feathers as well as a dark inner wing. Both genders have flat owl-like faces. They are also easily identified by their flying pattern as they course over fields with the wings held at an angle to the body.
Northern Harriers are found across North America, Europe and Asia. They chiefly reside in open areas such as tundra, steppes, grasslands, meadows, wetlands and agricultural zones. These harriers will feed on a variety of small mammals, insects, birds and reptiles, even occasionally dining on carrion. The harrier will glide down close to the ground, relying heavily on their sense of hearing, which is aided by their facial disk. After locating prey they will quickly swoop down in a surprise attack.
One of the most acrobatic raptors, the Northern Harrier displays before the female a most intricate courtship flight with clever maneuvering. Nests are built on the ground and are made of sticks and other vegetation. A clutch of 5 eggs is laid in the nest. Incubation is for 29 to 31 days during which time the male Northern Harrier provides the female with food. The offspring fledge after 30 to 40 days but are still dependent on their parents. Northern Harriers live for plus-minus 12 years.
In Cambridgeshire, near St. Ives, is a safe haven for birds of prey. The Raptor Foundation welcomes any bird that has been injured or has been placed in circumstances that requires rehabilitation. Birds that are not able to be released back into the wild are also kept at the foundation, as well as endangered species. Through dedication and commitment, the staff at The Raptor Foundation have created a permanent home for these birds, and strive to educate the public on the importance of protecting raptors by inviting them to spend a day, or two, with them and their wonderful birds.