Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Colorado Raptors of Winter: An Interview With Anne Price

You guys have heard of Anne Price from the Raptor Education Foundation (REF) before: she's the one who brings all of the awesome birds of prey to the raptor shows at the Best Western Denver Southwest dinosaur hotel!  Eager to learn more about some of the raptors that live here in Colorado during the winter, and how the change in weather affects the birds behavior!  She was nice enough to oblige, and the answers were definitely very interesting!  So after you check out the REF website HERE and like their Facebook page HERE, please join me in welcoming Anne Price, Curator of Raptors at the Raptor Education Foundation!
Anne Price with a prairie falcon at the Best Western Denver Southwest!
1. What raptors are you likely to see if you live along the Front Range here in Colorado?

The big four hawks are: red-tailed hawk (year round), Swainson’s hawk (April through early October), rough-legged hawk (October through March), and Ferruginous hawk (year round, but rare on front range in summer months).  Turkey vultures in spring, bald eagles in winter, golden eagles, Cooper’s hawks and American kestrels year-round, turkey vultures and osprey from March through October.  There are more species around but these are the most likely to be seen by the average birder.
A red-tailed hawk at another one of the raptor shows at the Best Western!
2. What raptors have migrated away that you would be able to see along the Front Range during the summer?

Turkey vultures and Swainson’s hawks.
Anne Price holding a turkey vulture!
3. What special behavior, such as courtship rituals or other behaviors like that, can you observe in raptors during December and January along the Front Range?

You may see red-tailed hawks and bald eagles start to sit next to each other in trees or along telephone poles. The big excitement comes from great-horned owls, which will begin courtship calling (hooting back and forth) in the middle of the night, starting around Christmas Day.
Anne holding a great-horned owl!
4. Do the raptors at the REF change their behavior at all during the winter? If so, how do they change?

Our birds eat more, so we feed them more to put on just a bit more fat for the cold weather. Our two Swainson’s hawks get feisty and start stealing food because their metabolism is telling them that they need to bulk up for a long migration ahead. I always let them gain 1-3 oz during this transition so they are ready for the cold, which came early this year and was REALLY cold. Our female golden eagle will also start gaining weight and developing a brood patch as she gets ready to lay her eggs in early March. She has gained 9 oz just in the last 2 weeks!
A golden eagle takes flight in Dinosaur National Monument!
5.  Finally, I remember you mentioning the black streaks under the eyes of the prairie falcon as a glare reducing adaptation. What can you tell me about that?

It’s called the “malar stripe” or “malar mark.” It’s meant to reduce glare by having the sun strike or be concentrated in the area beneath the eye, leaving the area above in proper contrast. These are black or dark lines under the eyes of cheetahs, most falcons (gyrfalcons and merlins being notable exceptions).  Even flickers have malar stripes, though in these birds they serve as signals for courtship, not for better visibility of prey species!

Which is why the Rockies and the Broncos do the same thing…….
A REF prairie falcon at the Best Western!
Thank you so much Anne for taking the time out of your schedule to answer some of our questions!  I know I will definitely be on the lookout for these birds in the upcoming weeks, and hopefully everyone else will be, too!  Make sure to check out the REF Facebook page HERE, as well as their website HERE.  You can also come visit all the REF birds on Saturday, April 12 from 11am to 2pm! Admission is free and there will be giveaways and refreshments.  RSVPs are kindly requested; please visit  Thanks again, and keep an eye out for a follow-up post regarding those fascinating malar marks!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...