Coastal Birds Of Prey

by Dana Kester-McCabe

During the winter months when the leaves have fallen from local trees there are many birding opportunities. The Eastern Shore has added appeal for birders being on the migratory flyway for many species including many birds of prey: eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls.

Migrating Merlin Falcons can be seen in the Fall. During October there are annual banding programs for peregrines and saw-whet owls at Assateague Island National Seashore. Kestrels are particularly charming year round residents and one of the smaller raptors.

imageVultures also live here year round. They may look a little frightening at first but they are our natural garbage collectors. Here on Delmarva we have the Turkey Vulture named for its gnarly red head with no feathers which looks bit like that of a turkey. The Black Vulture looks like a dragon. They can be seen roosting in trees and on roof tops sometimes in large groups.

Owls are harder to see because they are mostly nocturnal. But keep your eyes peeled for one occasionally taking over an empty bird house. The state park in the Pocomoke Forest and the Pemberton Park in Salisbury have evening owl watching programs at various times throughout the year. Last year there were rare sightings of migrating snowy owls along coastal waters.

Another common site are red tailed hawks. They often hang out on wires and light posts looking for rabbits and other rodents along ditches and farm fields. Near waterways be sure and look for ospreys. They can be seen fishing and eating their catch.

Bald eagles have made a big comeback across the country in recent years. They will dine on carrion like vultures as well as hunting and fishing for rodents and small mammals like this juvenile finishing off a fox. In the coming months these magnificent flying hunters and the other coastal birds of prey can be seen especially in the early morning and late afternoon along tree lines and marshes.

Visit these links for more information about birding:
Birding In Worcester County