Australia is blessed with many different species of raptor. Raptors are probably the most popular birds photographed, and many birders only seek to photograph these bird species.. Since birding was not an option this week due to weather, and simply not seeing many at all in the forest on our birding date, I thought it good to showcase some of our beautiful raptors. These exceptional birds are the kings of the sky and their image is used to denote power and authority in defence forces, police and governments. Above a Black=shouldered Kite alights from the top of a dead tree. Let me list some of the important traits that group these amazing birds into a unique and beautiful class of their own.
⇒ They have the keenest and sharpest eyesight of any creature: They can see small rodents over one kilometre away and most of them, such as the Wedge-tailed eagle have, not only binocular vision, but also telescopic vision, as they are able to press out their eye socket in a way that zooms their eyesight making it over 5 times better than our own.
⇒ They have powerful retractable talons: Unlike other birds they do not only have claws, but they have large scissor-sharp talons controlled by powerful muscles in their feet which they can advance and retract. This is how they kill their pray and carry it in the air. The Osprey has very unique talons designed for carrying fish with opposing toes. Wedge-tailed Eagles have been seen carrying in flight small lambs and and even young wallabies. Click on photos to enlarge them.
⇒ They have very strong hooked beaks: The hook on the beak allows them to tear flesh off their prey, which for the most part if smaller animals and birds. They lack teeth and have to break off pieces small enough to swallow whole.
⇒ They have very large wingspans which enable them to soar: One of the features of these birds similar to many other birds is their ability to catch the warm upper currents off land (called thermals) and once they reach a certain height using their powerful wing beats, they spread their wings and soar motionless with the winds up to 2000 meters, usually going up in a circular trajectory. This a good reason why keen eyesight is essential for these birds to be able to spot their prey from high in the sky. Not all raptors prefer this technique, but most can do it. They can move and turn in the air with barely a visible movement. The conservation of energy as they aeronautically soar on the thermals allows them to spend hours in the sky, but they can only do this by day..
⇒ They primarily prefer to hunt alone and prefer a very high 360° view when resting: Mostly lone hunters, though when breeding are training young they will accompany spouse and young. The place to look for these birds is usually on the highest point of a dead tree, or even green tree, when they are resting, as they like to purvey their complete surroundings, like a king surveying his kingdom, able to spot prey from some distance away.
⇔ They build some of the largest nests: Some Eagles build nests that weigh several tons and are many metres wide and deep. Our Wedge-tailed Eagle and White-bellied Sea-Eagle, being our largest raptors, build the largest in Australia. Here is a link reporting one of the largest reported from the USA.
⇒ They train their young for several years in every aspect of life: This not so for all raptors, but is for the larger eagles, however they require persistent adult teaching to learn to fly and hunt. Much of their learning is simple observation and listening, as it is for us. Adult eagles are known to push their young out of the nest if they do not brave it themselves, when they think they should.
This is where the phrase “I carried you on eagles wings” (Exodus 19:4) comes from in the Bible, when God was referring to Israel being delivered from Egypt’s slavery. After pushing the youngster out of the nest, the adult flies rapidly beneath it. If it fails to fly it catches it on is back and wings it back to the nest to try again, as many times as it takes. Finally, as the youngster starts to fly of its own accord,it flies beneath the youngster until it can fly alone, and then leads it away to strengthen its wings in flight. These photos and this training process, among others appear in my first book. Notice in the above LH photo how the youngster looks down to check the parent is there.
⇒ They can deliberately hatch their young at different times: Most raptors, in particular eagles, usually only have one to three offspring at a time, and only two out of three may survive. This is because the mother deliberately lays her eggs 2 to 4 days apart, so they each are born larger than the hatching that follows. This can lead to the smallest becoming the weakest due to feeding priority given to the larger birds, and often the first born will compete for food being stronger, causing the youngest to eventually die. Because of the amount of hands on effort in feeding, teaching and raring the young for several years, it is to their advantage to raise only one healthy youngster in each clutch. Even though the juveniles are fully fledged, they continue to need feeding for some time till they learn to successfully catch their own without help, as it is with us training a child to use a knife and fork.
⇒ They are mostly monogamous: Most raptors spend their lives with the one mate and raise their families together. If a mate dies they may go looking for a replacement and continue breeding. It is not uncommon to see pairs of adults and junior tagging along as they soar on the thermals.
⇒ They vary between species in size and hunting methods: While the larger eagles and kites swoop down on their prey at speed from a distance above or from the top of a dead tree, Smaller Goshawks, Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites hover above waiting for their prey to appear and then suddenly descend on it from above. Pacific Baza fly into the trees and catch their prey as they fly through. Harriers fly very low over the ground and drop suddenly down on their quarry. A Black-shouldered Kite shows us (below) an example of hovering over prey, but alas on a very cloudy day.
⇒ They have beautiful distinctive plumage: The main form of identification of these birds when they are soaring is their specific under wing plumage, as this may be all you see. Here are some examples…
That is enough raptors for this week, otherwise you will be raptored out. This is a summary of the kings of the sky by day. Part 2 will look at the kings of the sky by night, the eagles of the night we know as owls.
Hope you all have an enjoyable week despite all the hardships that many of you are going through at present with both weather and virus. Praying you all keep alert and well during this unusual season in our history. Many have shared how bird numbers are reduced this season.
If this is your first visit to my blog, a warm welcome to you. Have a look around on my website pages from my menu or Home Page. I have updated several pages recently. Check out my book, I am the final stages of publishing process of my next book. Here is a last plug for my current one on an unused clip I found.
Here is a joke a dear friend shared on Facebook I am sure the ladies will appreciate:
Raptors carry an air of majesty and authority in the way they do life, which makes them the ideal emblem for use on law enforcement and defense force coats of arm. Their ability to soar for hours motionless, yet always moving with outspread wings is always a delight for every birder and for many who are enchanted by their presence. The raptor has the best of everything, eyesight, powerful body, hunting ability, is omnivorous to name a few. But as I shared above, and from my book (page example shown above earlier), the more complex, intelligent and able the creature, the more learning and listening is required of the trainee nestling and fledgling. These birds, similar to the Raven, Magpie, Bowerbird and Lyrebird take several years of training before they gain their full maturity colours and can breed. It is also interesting from recent research and personal observation that in a similar way to us humans there are good and poor learners with varying results of success in life.
The White-bellied Sea Eagle perched above has been trying to get its juvenile fledgling to hunt for itself, but it just remains in the nest squawking to be fed. The boat captain on the Arthur River laughingly said that these parents have been endlessly trying by example, to make this reluctant youngster hunt for itself. The video above shows the father adult catching a fish and carrying it away from the nest out of sight to eat it. This is followed by the juvenile trying to follow, but stops when it loses sight of it. This is old movie so it lacks quality.
Simply put the lesson is: no matter how well we may parent and set a good example for our children, it is ultimately up to the child what they choose to learn from and respect. Many hurting parents have shared their false guilt over how they blame themselves for their children not turning out the way they had hoped, after much loving commitment to their development and instruction. Each of us are ultimately responsible for our own destiny, and what we do with what we have been given. It is the hardest thing for many to allow their child to suffer the consequences for their bad decisions, but it is important that they learn for themselves and sometimes the hard way. We need to always show them love, acceptance and forgiveness , sharing our concern, but always letting them live their own lives and not try saving them, as this is also part of their normal growth and maturity Often they will have a light bulb moment and realize the error of their ways and apologise to the parents down the track. Many children become spoilt and dependent on parents, who eventually become co dependent to the child’s carelessness, bailing them out and suffering the use and abuse syndrome, with the child never maturing or learning to correct their bad habits.
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” – Proverbs 1: 8,9 (NIV)
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” – Proverbs 29:17
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.