Birds of Seabrook Island

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  Order Falconiformes (Accipitriformes) - Diurnal Birds of Prey
   Family Accipitridae - Hawks, Eagles, Kites
      Subfamily Accipitrinae - Kites, Harriers, Sea Eagles, Buteos, Eagles,
         Sea Eagles
  Diurnal Birds of Prey include raptors with talons and hooked bill. Most hunt animal prey using acute vision which may be supplemented by hearing. (Several Old World forms have specialized for carrion eating with bare heads and long necks. They lack talons. These buteos are properly called "buzzards," not our New World Vultures.)
   The Tree of Life includes the diurnal birds of prey (and New World Vultures) in the Accipitriformes. The Encyclopedia of Life includes them in the Ciconiiformes.
Accipitrids (osprey, kites, harriers, sea eagles, buteos, and eagles) are found in all parts of the world except Antarctica and some islands. 
Sea (Fish) Eagles, Haliaeettus, are large fishing birds of prey.  
 
Soaring Birds
Carrion Feeding
AVM
DDT
Hacking
     
  Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
 
 Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Fairly common / Fairly common, breeds
            SEA COASTS, RIVERS, SWAMPS, LAKES, OPEN AREAS
MORE PICTURES
 
   The Bald Eagle is a large raptor with a relatively large head and bill and wings that are straight (not tapered). They soar with their wings held nearly flat. Adults have a white head and tail. Juveniles are dark but show some white in their under wing coverts, spreading across the belly and into the tail as they become older. They are best identified by their size and flight profile.
Bald Eagle
     
Bald Eagle. Seabrook.
Photo by Ed Konrad
   
  RANGE: Bald Eagles breed across Canada from the Maritime provinces to Alaska and move south to coastal Baja in winter. More local populations are found in Florida and coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas.
   The Bald Eagle has been an endangered species in most of the US - in 1982 fewer than 1500 pairs were located outside Alaska. Their decline was due to habitat destruction and poisoning by pesticides and heavy metals. Intensive efforts have been made to restore our southeastern populations and they are now relatively common in our area (see below).
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. Eagles build large nests high in pines or other trees (on a cliff in the west, on the ground on Arctic islands with no trees). They use sticks and vegetation with a deep lining of finer materials. Both sexes build. Nests may be used in successive years (up to 35 years or until destroyed by a storm or tree-fall). Great Horned Owls may take over their nests occasionally.
   They typically lay 2 eggs (1-3) which are incubated both both parents for 34-36 days. The young hatch asynchronously and the youngest usually dies. Development is semialtricial. One or the other parent remains with the chick(s) constantly for the first two weeks. Both parents bring food to the nest, tearing it into small pieces and feeding the young. After 3-6 weeks, they leave prey in the nest and they young peck at and eat it. Young fly after 79-98 days (10-12 weeks).
   In our area, juveniles fledge in March and may wander north to Canada in the spring...
   Eagles first breed at 4-5 years of age and may mate for life.
  DIET: Bald Eagles feed on fish, small mammals (rabbits), and some waterfowl (coots) and seabirds. They also feed on carrion and raid garbage dumps and other concentrations of food. They actually prefer to steal their food (kleptoparasitism) to active pursuit and carrion to live prey. They are sometimes predators, sometimes scavengers. They may hunt from a perch where they can see prey, then drop down to catch it in its feet. They also fly low, surprising prey. They may also wade in shallow water to catch fish (salmon runs, etc.). On Seabrook, watch for them flying over the surf at the inlet or cruising the inlet for food.
  VOICE: Weak, flat, chirping whistles, stuttering, variable.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - uncommon spring throug fall (breeds), occasional summer. Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - fairly common permanent resident. Hilton Head - fairly common permanent resident.
        Cape Romain
- uncommon/occasional/uncommon/uncommon. Huntington Beach - uncommon August - November; rare December - July.
      Caw Caw - fairly common/uncommon (breeds)/fairly common/fairly common. ACE - common/uncommon (breeds)/uncommon/common.
   CBC: ACE 24, 25, 32, 29, 28, 40, 32, 43; Charleston 14, 11, 9, 13, 1, 3, 18, 15;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 13, 8; Hilton Head 7, 15, 18, 36, 15, 20, 45, 40; Sun City/Okatie 3, 21, 62, 52, 53, 54, 30, 36:
            McClellanville 52, 22, 33, 22, nc, 17, 55, 48; Winyah Bay x, x, 24, 23, 24, 29, 42, 59; Litchfield/Pawley's 6, 6, 6, 45, 30, 11, 15, 19.
   P&G: Local / uncommon resident. Breeding north to Barnwell Co. (SRP), Egg dates: 6 November - 12 April.
   Avendex: 29 records, all months with higher numbers in the fall. Maximum, 79 birds, Winyah Bay, CBC 2003.
   Potter: Bald Eagles have made a remarkable recovery and are no longer rare in the Carolinas.
  ●  Bald Eagles are common over our estuaries and I have seen them fishing in the swash zone (surf). They are often seen from the beach riding thermals, feeding over the Kiawah River, or even perched on the fore dune of the beach. They may also be seen flying over Capn's Sam's marsh area and perched in the larger trees on Ocean Pointe. They may fly over the golf courses and should be looked for in any relatively open area on the island. There is a long-term nest on Botany Island and a pair nested along the golf course in 2009 and 2010.
   The Bald Eagle has now been removed from the endangered/threatened species list - there are an estimated 10,000 breeding pairs in the US.
   
   

AVM
   Note that American Coots and Bald Eagles (feeding on in coots) living on several inland lakes are subject to avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM). This degenerative disease of the central nervous system has caused significant mortality of eagles. Click for more information.
   
   

DDT
   
Both of our fish-eating birds (the Bald Eagle and Osprey)  were severely affected by DDT. With banning of this pesticide, populations of both species have returned toward normal.
   An extensive effort was made in the south-east to increase eagle reproduction by "hacking." Surplus young were taken from nests with multiple eggs (eagles seldom rear more than one chick but lay two or three eggs). These young were raised using techniques that prevented them from becoming "imprinted" to their human care-givers. This has allowed them to join the native population.
   The widespread provision of poles with platforms have added nest sites for Ospreys and appear to have assisted with their recovery.
   
   

HACKING
   To hack is to raise a bird of prey in an artificial nest, allowing it to go wild as it learns to hunt for itself.
    "Hack" tower on a dike at the duck ponds on Sapelo Island, GA - 1983. The second egg/chick of a Bald Eagle clutch was taken from a breeding pair and raised in an artificial nest on this platform. Care-takers remained unseen by the chick to avoid "imprinting" to humans. 
Hack tower
   
    Banner - Bald Eagle, Golf Course - Seabrook.
       
       
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