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Golden eagles are MUCH bigger than red-tailed hawks

Two immature red-tailed hawks. Photo by Jennifer Dayrell, Livermore, CA
1red-tailed hawks jennifer dayrell livermore

We saw these birds at Sycamore Grove Park south of Livermore last weekend. Are they eagles?
Jenni Dayrell, Livermore, California

These are immature red-tailed hawks. They are about 19 inches tall and weigh around 2-3 pounds. Golden eagles are about 30+ inches tall and weigh 10-12 pounds. That’s a considerable size difference. If it’s a big bird, it’s probably a red-tail. If it’s the biggest bird you ever saw, figure it’s a golden. /Gary

Adult golden eagle

Posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Under: Golden eagles, Red-tailed hawk | 3 Comments »

Red-tailed hawk harassing golden eagle

Red-tailed hawk dive-bombing golden eagle sitting on fence post. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1golden redtail2 dave harper oakley

Here’s a scene (two pictures) of an encounter between a golden eagle and a red-tailed hawk who happened upon the eagle. The golden is perched on a 6 or 8 inch post, interesting to see the talon size. Much like the smaller birds harassing hawks, the red-tail can bother the eagle as long as it remains careful to not get too close.
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

The eagle is probably perched in the red-tail’s territory and the smaller hawk is just letting the golden know who’s “boss” around there. These little turf wars go on all the time between large raptors and small raptors. With the birds of prey, it’s usually over territory.

But when small songbirds, crows and jays start dive-bombing and screaming at much larger raptors, it usually has to do with survival.The small prey species band together to harass and try to chase the larger predators away so the predator won’t sneak up and kill one of them when they’re not looking. /Gary

Red-tailed hawk dive-bombing golden eagle sitting on fence post. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1golden redtail dave harper oakley

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Under: Golden eagles, Raptors, Red-tailed hawk | 4 Comments »

Wild birds help us connect with nature

Jenny of Native Bird Connections with a snowy owl (Wild Birds Unlimited)
1snowyowl jenny mike williams

Native Bird Connections is a nonprofit organization that uses a collection of live, tame, nonreleasable eagles, hawks and owls to educate people of all ages about the wonders of nature. Last year they presented 584 programs that touched the lives of 17,792 people — including school children, scouts, senior living programs, after school enrichment programs, state and national park programs.

As Native Bird Connections supports our young people in their search for knowledge of the natural world around us, this organization also needs our financial support to help them survive these tough times.
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Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011
Under: Bald Eagles, Birds, Golden eagles, Hawks, Owls, wild birds | No Comments »

Look! Up in the sky! Is that a vulture, an eagle, a condor … or?

Golden eagle by David Harper, Oakley, CA
golden eagle david harper oakley

Ever looked up and wondered what kind of large bird was circling around in the sky above you?

Here are some photographs of birds of prey that you might commonly see up there. Well, except for the California condor. I just threw that one in because I’m always getting e-mails from people who say they saw a condor flying around somewhere over the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve yet to ever see one or have a local sighting verified. Maybe someday if the condor recovery efforts keep improving. Meanwhile, here’s what a condor really looks like. Note, all have ID numbers on their wings. Enjoy. /Gary
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Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Under: Condors, Golden eagles, Ospreys, Red-tailed hawk, Turkey vultures, White-tailed kite | 1 Comment »

Golden eagles vs. bald eagles — how to tell the difference



In case you run across a golden eagle or a bald eagle in the wild, here’s what they look like:
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Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Under: Bald Eagles, Golden eagles | 11 Comments »

Eagle and deer cause power outage?

There was a great little story on the Associated Press wires this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

“JUNEAU, Alaska — About 10,000 Juneau residents briefly lost power Sunday after a bald eagle lugging a deer head crashed into transmission lines.

“‘You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario,’ said Gayle Wood, an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokeswoman. ‘This is the story of the overly ambitious eagle who evidently found a deer head in the landfill.’

“The hefty bounty apparently bogged down the eagle, which failed to clear transmission lines as it flew away from the landfill, she said. When a repair crew arrived, they found the eagle carcass with the deer head nearby. … “

This caught my attention because of a little project I did about 25 years ago. I had read another AP story about sheep in Texas that were supposedly getting carried off by golden eagles. A bunch of Texas ranchers were demanding that their state Game and Fish Department give them permission to shoot the eagles to protect their livestock.

I was involved in a wildlife rehabilitation program at that time and had worked with a lot of eagles. I knew that those big birds often had a hard enough time launching just themselves into the sky, without the added weight of a sheep. In fact, I was certain that was impossible and that the ranchers were just exaggerating the situation to blame their losses on something.

Male golden eagles weight about 8-9 pounds and females weigh 10-12 pounds. Adult sheep weigh 150-200 pounds. No way a golden eagle could budge one of those monsters. Even a newborn lamb weighing 5-8 pounds at birth would be more than most eagles could drag into the sky.

I decided to try an experiment. I had a big (12 pounds) female golden at the time, so I tied a long line to her jesses (leather straps on her legs like those used by falconers to control their hunting birds) and tried to see how much weight she could lift off the ground.

Without boring you with details, she was barely able to drag the carcass of a 5 pound rabbit off the ground and stay in the air for about 100 feet before coming back to earth in a crash landing. I think we can forget the “eagles carrying off sheep” story.

I’m also starting to wonder about the bald eagle carrying off the deer head in the above story. That head had to weigh at least 10-15 pounds. Seems a bit much for an 8-14 pound bald eagle.

Oh, well, I don’t think I’ll be collecting any deer heads to test this one out. Hummm. I wonder if this is a sign that I’m getting old.

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: Golden eagles | 2 Comments »

Wind turbine response

And another thing … As one of my readers, Ken Dexter of Benicia, said in his e-mail: "The raptors and the wind turbines are on the ridge line for similar reasons. The raptors favor the updrafts that occur there and the turbines want the wind. They are bound to butt heads (and wings, legs … ). You might have guessed by now that I am not in favor of these Cuisinarts of the Sky. I think someone is trying to pull the sheep over our eyes."

Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2006
Under: Golden eagles, Raptors, Wind Turbines | No Comments »

Nothing in nature is ever simple

The letter and my answer below will appear in my Times’ column for June 1. This is for those who read my blog but not my column. I think they may be interested in this little exchange. /Gary

Dear Gary:
I read staff writer Denis Cuff’s article in the Tuesday Times (May 30) about using sheep to keep the grasses at the Altamont wind turbines trimmed. The idea being that if there is no ground cover for the ground squirrels then they will have to find another area to frolic. Which in turn will remove the food supply that attracts the raptors.

If this test works I believe we’ll have a win/win situation. We’ll retain the turbines, feed the sheep and save raptors from getting caught (and killed) in the turbine blades.
Greg Poynter, Richmond, CA

Dear Greg:
Unfortunately, nothing in nature is ever quite that simple.

Many thousands of birds have died at Altamont since those wind turbines were installed 20 or so years ago. Instead of investing the funds to simply redesign the turbines so they won’t kill the hawks, eagles, owls, falcons and vultures, or anything else, they have continually tried to first ignore the situation, and then to focus on low-cost, ineffective solutions when pressed to deal with it.

Now they want to disrupt the local ecosystem by using sheep to overgraze the area to try and make the ground squirrels leave, so the raptors will supposedly go seek their prey elsewhere and not be killed. I’m not so sure this will be that effective. There will still be plenty of other rodents (gophers, field mice, voles, rabbits, and other creatures) for the birds of prey to eat.

Other creatures will also be affected if the ground squirrels are driven away. Burrowing owls use ground squirrel holes to build their nests, and tiger salamanders also like to live in those holes. Gopher snakes and rattlesnakes feed on ground squirrels. And who knows what the effects from overgrazing will be on other species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, spiders and insects?

And what about the huge numbers of bats that are being killed by wind turbine blades in other parts of the country? I’m sure bats are also dying at Altamont, and bats don’t care about ground squirrels. In fact, all that sheep poop may even attract more insects and therefore more bats to eat them and be killed by the turbines.

As I said, nothing in nature is ever simple.

Posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
Under: Golden eagles, Raptors, Wildlife, Wind Turbines | 2 Comments »

Notes from the wilds of Mount Diablo

On July 6, 2003, my good friend, Walnut Creek, Calif., photographer Brian Murphy, and I, did a front page story in the Contra Costa Times about the Shell Ridge golden eagle. The story had many of Brian’s perceptive photos of that huge, beautiful raptor.

Brian takes a lot of photos of wild creatures that live on our beloved 3,849-foot Mount Diablo here in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco East Bay area. Over the years Brian has developed a special relationship with these wild animals. Some people have even accused him of being their friend.

With that in mind, I thought you’d appreciate this e-mail I received from Brian this morning:

Gary: Interesting wildlife soap opera going on in our area.

Last year the Walker Canyon male eagle died from West Nile and it looks like the Walker Canyon female took the Shell Ridge male, not giving the Shell Ridge female enough time to find another mate, so she doesn’t have a mate this year. The two pairs kind of hung out together in Walker Canyon and share part of the territory.

But it looks like the female chick from 2002 is back with her mom and they are hanging out together in Shell Ridge.

I have to confirm this is the 2002 chick. I did see a female golden with white at the base of it’s tail feathers fly by me near the nest and that would be the correct age of the young female.

Perhaps mom is going to show her how to find unattached males? (Brian, Walnut Creek)

Will the Shell Ridge eagle find a new mate in time to breed and raise a family this year (doubtful). If she does, will her attractive daughter lure the new male off to a secret Mount Diablo canyon to help her build a nest?

Tune in next week to further adventures of, "Notes From the Wilds of Mount Diablo."

Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2006
Under: Golden eagles, Wildlife | 1 Comment »