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Hawk Ridge

Hawk Ridge: Minnesota's Birds of Prey

Laura Erickson
Illustrations by Betsy Bowen
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 104
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    Hawk Ridge
    Book Description:

    Was Caesar like the eagle because of his aquiline (from aquila, for "eagle" in Latin) nose, or does the eagle seem imperial because of his Caesar-like beak? Does the sharp vision of a "hawk-eyed" observer have any basis in nature? And what the heck is "kettling" to a bird-watcher, or, for that matter, a bird? Raptors have captured the imagination from time immemorial and have an especially rich history in Minnesota. The ancient peoples whose pictographs adorn the rock faces of Lake Superior's North Shore may well have witnessed the first hawk movements along Lake Superior-the same annual migration that today draws as many as twenty thousand people to Duluth's Hawk Ridge. These birds, passing through in astounding numbers, are among the hawks and accipiters, buteos and harriers, eagles and ospreys pictured and profiled in detail in this book.

    Written by one of Minnesota's best-known bird authorities, with images by one of the state's favorite illustrators,Hawk Ridgeis as fun as it is informative. It introduces the state's raptors, from the rare visitor to the most familiar hawk, noting each species' signature traits-osprey wings, for instance, are crooked to help them catch fish; vultures urinate on their legs to cool themselves-and their nesting, breeding, and migrating habits. Did you know that Sharp-shinned Hawks banded at Hawk Ridge have been found throughout Central America and even into South America, and also, in midwinter, in Wisconsin? Laura Erickson offers a broad perspective (a bird's-eye view!), making sense of the raptor's role in the larger ornithological scheme.

    With descriptions of various species-and helpful distinctions between species, families, and orders-the book gives readers a clear idea of which raptors might be seen in Minnesota, when, where, and how often. It also includes a hawk migration primer that explains the movements that bring these birds in such awe-inspiring numbers to places like Hawk Ridge. Filled with curious facts and practical information for expert and amateur bird-watcher alike, the book is at once a guide to the hawks of Minnesota and a beautifully illustrated album of the most regal members of the avian kingdom.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8209-6
    Subjects: History, Biological Sciences, Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Artist’s Note
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Every autumn, close to twenty thousand people gravitate to a stretch of unimproved road on a hill overlooking Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, to watch thousands of individuals of twenty species of raptors pass by Hawk Ridge. Hawk migration is as certain as sunset, albeit seasonal rather than daily and with far less predictable timing. Heavy rains can obscure a sunset; they shut down hawk migration altogether. Both phenomena can overpower us with their compelling beauty, yet both meet the very definition of commonplace—they take place silently and regularly, with no impact on human events. Even the most avid...

  5. Vultures (Order Accipitriformes, Family Cathartidae)
    (pp. 11-15)

    Vultures are among the most graceful of all flying creatures. Their bodies are surprisingly light for such large birds: a Turkey Vulture’s wingspan is about six feet compared to a Bald Eagle’s seven feet, yet the vulture weighs only 40 percent as much. Small wonder they can fly for many minutes without flapping once, and except during courtship virtually never flap more than ten times in succession.

    Are vultures raptors? Ornithologists have been debating that question for centuries. On the one hand, like raptors they feed on meat, the only difference being that vultures seldom or never kill their own...

  6. Ospreys (Order Accipitriformes, Family Pandionidae)
    (pp. 17-21)

    Scientists set the Osprey apart from all other hawks in a family that includes just this species, found on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys are the fishing specialists of the raptor world—virtually every scientist studying the species has found that at least 99 percent of an Osprey’s diet is live-caught fish.

    The Osprey is uniquely adapted for fishing. Its four toes are of equal length, and the outer of the three front toes is reversible, allowing an Osprey to grasp its fish evenly, the two normal front toes from both feet on one side of the fish and the...

  7. Eagles (Order Accipitriformes, Family Accipitridae)
    (pp. 23-31)

    Eagles may be among the most recognizable of all birds, but to an ornithologist, “eagle” is just a name, not the designation of a natural grouping of species. The Bald Eagle belongs to a genus of fishing eagles,Haliaeetus, while the unrelated Golden Eagle, inAquila, is separated by ten species in the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union checklist. The Bald Eagle’s uncompromising visage serves as our national emblem; the Golden Eagle inspired both Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s famous poem and the description of curved noses as “aquiline.”

    The two species share the distinction of being the heaviest of Minnesota’s birds of prey,...

  8. Harriers and Kites (Order Accipitriformes, Family Accipitridae)
    (pp. 33-36)

    At Hawk Ridge, the rather common hawk with long, narrow but nonpointed wings and a long, narrow tail is the Northern Harrier, which has a light, buoyant flight often described as butterfly-like. The hawk occasionally confused with it is the Mississippi Kite, which has been reported from Hawk Ridge twelve times since 1972.

    Harriers and kites are not closely related but share superficial characteristics in their overall shape and buoyant flight, at least when the kite is leisurely hawking for insects. Mississippi Kites can also fly with considerable speed, appearing falcon-like. The kite is much smaller than the harrier, with...

  9. Accipiters (Order Accipitriformes, Family Accipitridae)
    (pp. 39-49)

    The three American accipiters range in size from the fairly tiny male Sharp-shinned Hawk, about the size of a Blue Jay, to the huge female Northern Goshawk, which can be larger than ravens. Regardless of size, hawk watchers recognize accipiters by their characteristic shape: short, rounded wings and long, narrow tail. Accipiters can be seen at Hawk Ridge virtually every day during migration, usually much lower and closer than other raptors because they hunt at treetop height as they migrate along. The birds accipiters feed on are also abundant during accipiter migration, so these hawks often have a large bulge...

  10. Buteos (Order Accipitriformes, Family Accipitridae)
    (pp. 51-66)

    The buteos, characterized by long, broad wings and a short, broad tail, compose the largest group of raptors counted at Hawk Ridge. This group includes several commonly seen species, and the annual totals of a single species, the Broad-winged Hawk, are usually much higher than the annual numbers of any other species at the ridge. But buteo migration tends to be concentrated on fewer days than that of other hawks. The large wings and wide tail of buteos combined with their relatively light weight give them exceptionally light “wing-loading,” making them well adapted for rising on thermals and updrafts to...

  11. Falcons (Order Falconiformes, Family Falconidae)
    (pp. 69-86)

    Long, narrow, pointed wings and a fairly long, narrow tail uniquely adapt falcons for speed. Ornithologists traditionally placed all the raptors (except, for a time, vultures) in a single order, the Falconiformes. But recent DNA studies have conclusively determined that falcons are not related to the others. Some may find it surprising that falcons are genetically much more closely allied with parrots and songbirds than with hawks. In 2010 the American Ornithologists’ Union created a whole new order, the Accipitriformes, in which they placed all the nonfalcon hawks.

    During their first year, falcons of most species can be distinguished from...

  12. Visiting Hawk Ridge
    (pp. 88-89)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 91-91)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 93-94)