Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) by IanIan’s Bird of the Week – Northern Goshawk  by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 11/17/14

I got so absorbed in recounting my experiences in Catalonia, that I forgot to mention that I’ve been home in North Queensland for several weeks.

The piece about the effects of diclofenac prompted some interesting responses. It was pointed out that it causes kidney not liver failure in vultures, my apologies, and that a safe and effective substitute in both humans and livestock is the anti-inflammatory meloxicam. It’s sold here as Mobic, which I take sometimes when I wayward spinal disc misbehaves. I also received a link to this article by the Vulture Conservation Foundation which has managed to get the EU to do an investigation into the effects of diclofenac: http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/campaigning-to-ban-diclofenac-in-europe/.

On the second day of our stay in raptor country in the Pyrenees with Birding in Spain we – my sister Gillian joined me for this one – were taken by Steve West to a hide at a Northern Goshawk feeding station before sunrise – goshawks are earlier risers than I am normally and are shy. Here the goshawks are fed regularly on chicken carcasses and fresh pigeon, the product of a culling programme by the local council. It was a misty, chilly, gloomy morning – sunrise was the time of day rather than an event – and the first bird to arrive, the adult female in photos 1 and 2, was barely visible. The second photo was taken at 1/3 of a second exposure at 1600 ISO and my tripod, inconvenient for travel, proved its worth yet again.

Adult females are more strongly barred and much larger than males (to protect succulent-looking nestlings). This one is partially spreading its wings and tail near the food in a posture that looks like a rudimentary ‘mantling’ display. This is usually used by hawks as a threat display to discourage other ones from interfering with their prey. In this case, I suspect it was signalling the presence of food to the juvenile goshawk, third photo, who appeared shortly afterwards. First year juvenile Northern Goshawks are brown with buff, almost cinnamon underparts and are streaked rather than barred. Similar juvenile plumages occur in other close relatives in the Accipiter genus such as the Brown Goshawk (A. fasciatus) and Collared Sparrowhawk (A. cirrocephalus), both common in Australia; see http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/brown_goshawk/source/brown_goshawk_32464.htm and http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/collared_sparrowhawk/source/collared_sparrowhawk_62859.htm for examples of their juvenile plumage. Note, incidentally the ‘beetle-brow’ characteristic also of the Brown Goshawk that gives the larger goshawks their fierce expression.

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) by IanThe adult female moved aside and let the juvenile have the pigeon prey and the juvenile then adopted the possessive mantling display with spread wings and tail and fluffed-out feathers of the mantle, just below the neck.

Mother, I presume, tackled a piece of chicken carcass and carried it down onto the ground closer to the hide, but partially obscured by dried grass and other vegetation.

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) by IanThe sixth photo shows the juvenile somewhat later with the remains of the pigeon. This was a very large bird too, as you can perhaps judge from its appearance, so I concluded that it was female too. ‘Huge’ is perhaps a better description, as the Northern Goshawk is easily the world’s largest of the nearly 50 or so species of Accipiter – (typical hawks comprising larger goshawks and smaller sparrowhawks, though ‘hawk’ is also used in North America to name other raptors such as those in the genus Buteo aka ‘Buzzard’ in British English). The female is up to 65cm/26in in length with a wingspan of up to 120cm/47in and a weight of up to 2.0kg/4.5lb, comparable in size with many Buzzards. All the Accipiter hawks tackle relatively large prey, mainly birds and some mammals. They hunt by surprise and pursuit and have rounded wings, long tails and fast reflexes for great manoeuvrability in forests. I suspect that Linnaeus used the specific moniker ‘gentilis’ in the sense of ‘noble’ rather than ‘gentle’. ‘Goshawk’ comes from the Old English ‘göshafoc’ meaning goose hawk, no mere chicken hawk.

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) by IanThis was another species that had aroused my interest in my field guide as an Irish teenager, and hadn’t seen before this trip. It’s a very rare vagrant in Ireland and was then only an occasional breeder in Britain though widespread if uncommon elsewhere in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Since then it has become re-established in Britain with a breeding population of 300-400 pairs.

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) by IanBoth birds lightened their load, as many raptors do, before taking flight, as the juvenile is doing in the seventh photo. There’s a photo on the website of the female doing the same thing: http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/northern_goshawk/source/northern_goshawk_161882.htm. Even nobles have to perform basic functions: don’t stand behind or below a well-fed raptor :-).

Greetings
Ian

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Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

“And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; (Leviticus 11:13-16 NKJV)

What a beautiful family of birds. Ian always has such great photos and adventures to share with us. Thanks, Ian.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Birds of the Bible – Peregrine Falcon and Goshawk

Ian’s Accipitridae Family

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles

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Birds of the Bible – Buzzards

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) by Nikhil Devasar

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) by Nikhil Devasar

But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, (Deuteronomy 14:12 NKJV)

In Birds of the Bible – How Many Are There? II, the buzzard was mentioned. Also last week, Ian did an article on the Black-breasted Buzzard. Since realizing that this bird, the Buzzard, had not been added to the Birds of the Bible pages, I added a Buzzard and this is the first article about our forgotten avian bird.

Aren’t we glad that the Lord does not forget His Creation?

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)

Buzzards belong to the  Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family and has 28 species in this family with “Buzzard” in their name. Members of this family are known as “Birds of Prey” or “raptors” by many.

Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus) by Peter Ericsson

Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus) by Peter Ericsson

From Britannica “True buzzards, or buteos, constitute the subfamily Buteoninae of the family Accipitridae. When in flight, they can usually be distinguished from other birds of prey by their broad wings and expansive rounded tails. They fly with slow heavy wing beats and soar gracefully. The plumage of most species is essentially dark brown above and white or mottled brown below, and the tail and underside of the wings usually are barred. There is much variability of pigmentation, however, even between individuals of a single species. Buzzards customarily prey on insects and small mammals and only occasionally attack birds. The nest, in a tree or on a cliff, is substantial, built of sticks and lined with softer materials. The two to five whitish eggs are blotched with brown.”

One of several medium-sized, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In particular, those in the genus Buteo. In the Old World, members of this genus are named as “buzzards”, but “hawk” is more common in North America.

In Europe, the Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, where Buzzard is often used as a synonym. The Common Buzzard is the most known buzzard in the Old World.

In the New World Buzzard can mean:

  • A vulture, particularly the American Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture, or as a general term for vultures.
  • In parts of the United States where they are considered pest, particularly in rural areas, a derogatory term for certain birds of prey, such as the Chickenhawk (a common colloquial name referring to either the Cooper’s Hawk, the Sharp-shinned Hawk or the Red-tailed Hawk), or the Duck hawk (known elsewhere as the Peregrine Falcon).

Quotes from Britannica and Wikipedia with editing.

Another Bible verse with “buzzard” is in Leviticus:

And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, (Leviticus 11:13 NKJV)

Both verses, Leviticus 11:13 and Deuteronomy 14:12 are listed in the birds not to be eaten by the Israelites. Considering what they eat, I am in no hurry to eat them either.

 

See:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Swamp Harrier

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Swamp Harrier by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9-2-13

Recently I was having trouble finding a reasonable photo of a Swamp Harrier for Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland, when I remembered an encounter that I had with this one on a beach on Bruny Island in Southeastern Tasmania in late 2011. At the time, I was on the return leg of the trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands via New Zealand and the Harrier photos got neglected in the excitement of posting penguin, petrel, prion and parakeet photos (not to mention albatrosses but they spoil the alliteration).

The encounter was the enactment of a minor natural tragedy that was sad to observe, and that may be a subconscious reason for the neglect. I’d actually photographed the bird first photo two minutes earlier struggling to fly into the teeth of a southerly gale and carrying an item of prey, that I couldn’t identify. The Harrier dropped it, back off to leeward and made another unsuccessful attempt to fly up-wind by flying low over the sea on the other side of me.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

This attempt failed too, and the bird came back for another try flying more or less overhead. At that point, it was attacked by a very distraught-looking Pied Oystercatcher looking for all the world as if it was on a retaliatory bombing raid. The Oystercatcher made a couple of passes at the Harrier, which eventually gave up the struggle and flew inland across the prevailing wind. I could only assume that the item of prey was the Oystercatcher’s chick and the field guide confirmed that these look like plover chicks, camouflaged speckled brown with white bellies. Predation is a natural part of life, but it was sad that the chick died for no purpose.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

I’ve found Harriers difficult to photograph as they’re shy and normally keep their distance in flight. They are also terrestrial in their lifestyle, inhabiting tree-less plains and wetlands, hunting close to the ground and nesting and perching on the ground, usually invisible or nearly so in grass or reeds. They hunt by flying low over the land or water – quartering – and dropping suddenly to seize surprised prey (sorry, I’ve done it again) such as birds, small mammals and frogs in their long-legged talons. When quartering, they alternate between flapping their wings and gliding with the wings held in a characteristic V, like the bird in the fourth photo in an otherwise tranquil pastoral scene in New Zealand.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

Adult Swamp Harriers are brownish and streaked, with white rumps. Older males have greyish wings and grey tails, unmarked except for a sub-terminal band. Females are more rufous and have barred tails and both the Bruny Island and New Zealand birds are, I think, males. Juvenile Swamp Harriers look quite different and are rufous brown overall with pale rufous rather than white rumps, like the one in the fifth photo.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

In Australia, Swamp Harriers nest mainly in the south, including Tasmania and migrate north in winter – in North Queensland, we see them only in the winter months. In New Zealand they make local movements across Cook Strait and they turn up on various islands including Lord Howe and Norfolk. Raptors are poorly represented in New Zealand and the Swamp Harrier is the large bird of the prey, being the only breeding member of the Accipiter family (hawks, eagles, etc.), with the rarer New Zealand Falcon being the only breeding falcon. Swamp Harriers also breed in Melanesia and Polynesia as far east as Tonga. It has close relatives in Eurasia comprising the Eastern, Western, African and Madagascar Marsh Harriers.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

And when the birds of prey swooped down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:11 AMP)

In this case, the Oystercatcher “drove them away.” You have to admit, that Oystercatcher looks right angry.

The Swamp Harrier is a member of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family. There are 256 species, of which, 17 are Harriers or Harrier-hawks.

Ian already gave quite a bit of information about this beautiful bird. The diet of the Swamp Harrier is mainly ground birds and waterbirds, rabbits and other small mammals, reptiles, frogs and fish. During the Winter months harriers feed to a large extent on carrion, including roadkill.

This species nests on the ground, often in swamps, on a mound in reeds or other dense vegetation. The clutch size may range from 2 to 7, but is usually 3 or 4. The incubation period is about 33 days, with chicks fledging about 45 days after hatching. (Wikipedia)

See also:

Swamp Harrier – Wingspan

Swamp Harrier – Wikipedia

Ian’s Accipitridae Family Photos

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotted Harrier

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