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Monday, January 30, 2012

Distinguish an Eagle in Flight

This weekend, I was walking with a friend down the road, when I happened to turn around in time to watch a mature bald eagle fly behind us. I pointed the bird out to my friend, who said that she feels that she probably sees more eagles flying around than she actually recognizes. It is easy to tell what you are looking at when you see the striking white head and tail against the dark body, but there are other tell-tale signs that make it easy to identify an eagle in flight even when they are high enough that you are not able to distinguish markings.  Follow these few simple ID tips and the next time you see large birds gliding high in the sky, take a second look.  They may just be turkey or black vultures, but there may be an eagle in their midst. 

The picture to the left of the text are head on shots of the birds.  Red-tailed Hawks (top left) hold their wings fairly level, although not as flat and heavy as the Bald Eagle (center left). Northern Harriers are buoyant in flight and hold their wings in a V (bottom left). The other distinguishing flight pattern of the harrier is when it hunts, it will quickly change altitudes almost in a yo-yo fashion. The Turkey Vulture (top right) also flies with its wings in a V, teetering uncertainly with changes in the wind, typically the TV's wobble as they fly. The similar Black Vulture (bottom right) has a level flight profile.

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