State College Bird Club

December 14, 2016

State College Bird Club Meeting, December 14, 2016

Presiding: Diane Bierly

Recording: Debra Grim

33 attendees


Checklist: 97 species reported

Treasurer report, Jean Miller: $165 received, $11 spent

Field trips: Penn’s Valley Raptors, Jan. 28, 2017

Upcoming Christmas Bird Counts: Culp, Altoona, Huntingdon, State College, Penn’s Creek, Bald Eagle Valley

Laura Jackson has bird-friendly coffee for sale, grown by Honduran coffee farmer Emilio Garcia. He is trying to raise funds to make an educational trip to an organic, shade-grown coffee farm in Nicaragua.

Laura also announced that Ian Gardner is seeking to raise expenses for a research trip to Honduras on GoFundMe. Go to for detailed information on his goals and itinerary along with information on how to make a personal donation.

Next meeting: January 25: Pam Ford will give a program entitled “The Layered Landscape: incorporating trees, shrubs, and perennials in the home landscape to create habitat for pollinators and birds.”


December Speaker: Nick Bolgiano, Raptors in Flight

Nick became aware of hawk watching in 1995 when he encountered a crew building the platform on Stone Mountain. Being a statistician, he began systematically studying hawk identification. His bible was Hawks in Flight, 1988, by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton. Then a new bar was set by the more advanced Hawks from Every Angle, 2005, by Jerry Ligouri. An excellent companion to this book is Hawks at a Distance, 2011, by Jerry Ligouri.

Nick began supplementing his mastery of hawk identification with photography. He shot almost all the photos in his presentation with his 400 mm lens.


Golden Eagle--Dark brown, golden nape, golden front edge of wing in good light
Light gray barring under wings
Long tail, small head. Trailing edge often pinches in where wing meets body. Long wings.
Kite like Red-tailed Hawks
Turkey vultures gathering to the side of the ridge are a good clue that a Golden Eagle is coming through
Outer wing swept up and back in strong wind.
First-year: variable white patches on wing, white at base of tail, bulging secondaries
Second-year: uneven trailing edges

Bald Eagle--Angular appearance where Golden Eagles are curvy
Large head, hands bowed down, not bent back
Often play together, especially juveniles
Most juveniles have white mottling underneath wings
First-year: ragged trailing edges, white belly
Second-year: usually not many uneven feathers
Third-year: white head, eye line
Fourth-year, some dark feathers in head and tail


Red-tailed Hawk--Most common, large and stocky
Dark patagial bars, usually a belly band
Curious about people and other items below
Adults usually have light throat, but western birds can have dark throats, maybe a few translucent primaries
Juveniles white in front, brown tail with thin darker bands, translucent primaries
Head on, wings are flat with tips up
Soaring—thick bulging secondaries, wings slightly thrust forward, s-shape to trailing edge

Red-shouldered Hawk--“Accipitor that turns into a buteo”
Translucent crescents in the primaries that can be seen from below and on the downstroke
Head on, the hands bow downward
Wings thrust forward, trailing edge straight
Long rectangular wings, blunt tips when gliding
Adults red below and on shoulder; juveniles less distinctive

Broad-winged Hawk--Smallest buteo, seen in large gatherings during fall migration
Adults have wide white tail bands; juveniles are streaked underneath
Yellow ceres, wings with dark trailing edges, often cupped
Soaring—symmetric pointed wings
Gliding-wings have straight trailing edge

Rough-legged Hawk--Very long wings in glide, very pointed in strong winds


Sharp-shinned Hawk--“Flying mallet”
Short head; long, squared-off tail, short round wings
Adults have red barring on chest
Juveniles have streaking, brown on top, yellow eyes
Often chase other birds
Tail often tilts up in strong wind
Soaring—wings out straight
Straight on, cupped wings

Cooper’s Hawk--“Flying cross”
Bigger head, stocky chest, tail rounded with white tip
“Turtle head” sticks up, wings cupped
Male slate gray on top, has dark cap, long plumes under tail in spring; Male is the toughest ID problem
Females have a narrowing at the base of the tail, unlike goshawk, and brown backs

Northern Goshawk--“Buteo that becomes an accipitor”
Wide, downswept wings, closed tail is same width from base to tip


American Kestrel--Wings relatively blunt for a falcon
Male reddish tail, row of “tail lights” on rear of wings
Female all brown
Soaring—wings out straight, fanned tail
Gliding—gentle curve to wings

Merlin--Wings more pointed, shorter tail than American Kestrel, dark
Up close, checkered, with thin facial stripes
Female, juvenile have brown backs
Fast flapping, sharp angles on wings, big head

Peregrine Falcon--Long wings; fast
Soaring—long, pointed wings
Flapping—fast and fluid


Northern Harrier--“Great fooler” when overhead
White “rump” (upper tail coverts)
Long wings held in a dihedral and long tail
Secondaries darker than primaries
Female brown, juvenile orange, male light gray with black wing tips
Nick’s program finished with a thorough and humbling quiz.

Minutes by Debra Grim