Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Size is Relative

Having been awed by the golden eagle last weekend, I was amused to see the sharp-shinned hawk near the backyard again this week. Just a few weeks ago, the sharp shinned hawk was an awesome, inspiring visitor who amazed by his sheer size, keen eye, and regal bearing. Upon spotting him struggling with some turbulent air I had to smile -- he looks so small now.

I was so startled by this observation that I was compelled to check my field guides for measurements, and what I found was astonishing. I've been fortunate enough to quite literally see the two ends of the size spectrum for birds of prey. With a seven foot wingspan, the golden eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in North America (only California condors and bald eagles can be larger), while the less than two foot wingspan of the sharp shinned hawk is the smallest of the accipiter family.

Both birds, however, share the confidence of being fit, agile predators who dominate their territories. While the smaller hawk is more likely to practice stealth to approach his next meal and the eagle more calmly surveys all in his path with bold assurance, both are stunning examples of magnificent birds that I feel fortunate to observe.

Don't forget to vote in the October poll: What feeder(s) do you use?

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