Read Forest Raptors and Their Nests in Southern Ontario text version

by Kandyd Szuba & Brian Naylor Design & Layout by Laurie Dool, LandOwner Resource Centre Artwork by Kandyd Szuba

Kandyd Szuba, Forestry and Wildlife Consultant Box 204, R.R. #1 Corbeil, Ontario P0H 1K0 Brian Naylor, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Southcentral Sciences Section 3301 Trout Lake Road North Bay, Ontario P1A 4L7 Southcentral Sciences Section Field Guide FG-03 1998

For information on obtaining copies of this guide, contact: LandOwner Resource Centre 3889 Rideau Valley Drive, Box 599 Manotick, Ontario K4M 1A5 Phone: (613) 692-3571 or 1-800-267-3504 Extensions 1128 or 1132


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction ...........................................................................................2 The Ecological Role and Value of Raptors .............................................3 Topography of a Hawk ..........................................................................4 Hawk Watching Made Easy ..................................................................5 Arrival Dates ........................................................................................6 Finding and Reporting Nests .................................................................7 Introduction and Rationale ..........................................................7 Sensitivity of Raptors ..................................................................8 Probability of a Nest Being Active ...............................................9 Ontario Raptor Nest Form ........................................................10 Sample Ontario Raptor Nest Form ...........................................11 Bird Studies Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum ......................13 Ontario Nest Records Scheme Card ........................................14 Habitat Management Guidelines..........................................................16 Identifying Forest Raptors....................................................................21 Silhouettes................................................................................21 Adults Overhead.......................................................................22 Key Features of Immatures .......................................................23 Immatures at a Glance .............................................................24 Incubating Birds........................................................................25 The Buteos ......................................................................................26 Red-shouldered Hawk ..............................................................28 Red-tailed Hawk .......................................................................30 Broad-winged Hawk.................................................................32 The Accipiters .....................................................................................34 Northern Goshawk ...................................................................36 Cooper's Hawk.........................................................................38 Sharp-shinned Hawk ................................................................40 The Falcons ......................................................................................42 Peregrine Falcon.......................................................................44 American Kestrel ......................................................................46 Merlin ......................................................................................48 Other Raptors .....................................................................................50 Bald Eagle ................................................................................50 Osprey......................................................................................52 Northern Harrier........................................................................54 Turkey Vulture ...........................................................................55 Great Horned Owl ....................................................................56 Long-eared Owl........................................................................57 Barred Owl ...............................................................................58 Other Nests (raven, crow, heron, squirrel, bear) ...................................59 Key to the Stick Nests.........................................................................63 References ......................................................................................67 Appendix I -- Characteristics of Red-shouldered Hawk Nests ............70 Appendix II -- Characteristics of Cooper's Hawk Nests ......................71 Appendix III -- Characteristics of Nests Used by Other Raptors .........72 Acknowledgments...............................................................................73 Short Forms Explained ........................................................................75




This guide strives to provide information on stick nests and related structures for people involved in forest management activities. It covers how to find and identify stick nests and the birds that build or use them, as well as some of the most important attributes of their behaviour, habitat requirements, and the guidelines and modeling tools that should be considered when trying to protect them. Portions have been devoted to more recreational aspects of the subject too. For example, Hawk Watching Made Easy identifies some migratory hot spots where interested people can go to further their identification skills, and to see more hawks than they ever thought possible in one day! Much of the natural history described here barely scratches the surface of the lives of these fascinating, reclusive birds. Hawks and owls are sensitive to disturbance at their nests or roosts, and their low populations are often testament to the fact that they were persecuted for decades as the wolves of the skies. They have also suffered from pesticide contamination of their food and habitat loss through a variety of land use activities on public and private land. In 1998, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) listed the bald eagle, golden eagle, and the peregrine falcon as endangered, and the red-shouldered hawk as vulnerable. The Cooper's hawk was formerly classified as vulnerable also. Field staff from both the OMNR and private companies are encouraged to include all active stick nests in the provincial data bases outlined in the section "Bird Studies Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum." These agencies make valuable habitat and other data available to researchers. Nest locations should be documented as part of the values mapping process in forest management planning. The contents of this guide reflect available literature on the subject, the personal experience of the authors, and most importantly, observations contributed by many devoted OMNR biologists, foresters, and technicians who threw themselves wholeheartedly into early projects designed to protect habitat for the red-shouldered hawk in Ontario. This guide is dedicated to all those past and present OMNR staff whose tireless efforts have helped to produce it. The errors and omissions are ours.


The Ecological Role and Value of Raptors

The Ecological Role and Value of Raptors

Environmental Barometers

As top carnivores, raptors can be environmental barometers. For example, populations of peregrine falcons, bald eagles, ospreys, merlins and Cooper's hawks were greatly affected by the persistent pesticide DDT. Peregrines were nearly extirpated in parts of North America. The metabolites of DDT caused the eggshells of these birds to become so thin that they were crushed during incubation, and chicks were not produced. The process of biomagnification ensured that the concentration of persistent chemicals was much higher in the raptors than in their food or in the surrounding environment. Persistent chemicals are stored in body fat, so their concentration increases greatly with each stage upward in a food chain. A healthy raptor population probably means the rest of the food web is also healthy. Bald eagles have suffered from lead poisoning on their wintering grounds where they feed on waterfowl that are killed or crippled by lead shot. This has contributed to the banning of lead shot in many areas. Nesting success of eagles near the Great Lakes is low despite reintroduction efforts, in part because of chemical pollution of the lakes -- when long-term eagle reproduction is restored, we will know that water quality has also been restored. The red-shouldered hawk, broad-winged hawk, and goshawk are all susceptible to forest fragmentation. Widespread changes in forest structure and land use have caused a great reduction in red-shouldered hawks and an increase in red-tails. This has been the impetus for the OMNR's efforts to modify forest harvesting practices near their nests.

Population Control of Potential Pests

Voles can damage conifer plantations by girdling seedlings and saplings, and mice eat large quantities of conifer and hardwood seeds. Mice and voles are favourite foods of all raptors which use forests, forest openings, forest edge, or clear cuts and burns. Using data from Preston and Beane (1993) and erring on the conservative side, our calculations suggest that in one year a pair of red-tailed hawks which raises two chicks that survive to the end of December would require the equivalent of about 3,270 rodents (assumes about three each per day).

Stick Nests are Valuable Real Estate

Hawks build nests that, once abandoned, are used by barred owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, merlins, and squirrels, all enriching the diversity of an area. Also, they may use each other's nests. For example, red-shoulders have used old goshawk and red-tail nests. Old red-shoulder nests have been used by those species as well as by Cooper's hawks and broad-wings.


Topography of a Hawk

Topography of a Hawk






banded tail

undertail coverts primaries


wing panel or "window" eyeline



banded tail

Hawk Watching Made Easy

Hawk Watching Made Easy

Lakes and landforms such as escarpments and ridges funnel hawks through several key points in Ontario during their spring or fall migration. On a good day you may see breathtaking flights of usually reclusive, even endangered species. For example, on October 20, 1985 the following birds were counted at Holiday Beach: 586 turkey vultures, 142 harriers, 260 sharp-shinned hawks, 364 red-shoulders, 238 red-tails, and 50 Cooper's hawks. These hawk watching spots are ideal places to hone your identification skills and to have a memorable day in the great outdoors. The best times are listed below. Spring Migration: mid-April to mid-May d Beamer Conservation Area near Hamilton -- official counts are conducted here d Bruce Peninsula -- anywhere in spring or fall Fall Migration: mid-September to mid-October d Holiday Beach Conservation Area, near Point Pelee National Park; mid-September to mid-October; official counts are conducted here d Hawk Cliff Conservation Area, near St. Thomas Ontario; midSeptember to mid-October; official counts are conducted here d Lake Superior West, south of Thunder Bay along Hwy 61 and Devon Road from mid-August to mid-September; migrating hawks may be seen anywhere along this route d Lake-of-the-Woods, northwestern Ontario -- any time in late spring or summer for nesting bald eagles d Nipigon River for bald eagles feeding on salmon, especially in October; obtain access to the river from boat launches at the town dock and at Alexander Dam off Highway #585 d Craig's Bluff, near Marathon on the north shore of Lake Superior for birds of prey in May and especially in September-October; near the Marathon Lions Penn Lake Park. (Tough to find -- ask the OMNR District Office for details) d Toronto Island Wildlife Sanctuary, north of the filtration plant between Centre Island and Hanlan's Point -- good spot for long-eared owls in autumn in the willows, and the best for saw-whet owls in October and November (these little cavity-nesters are not otherwise included in this book)

Goshawk in flight -- note the white eye line and dark cap.


Arrival Dates

Arrival Dates

Atkinson and Huizer (1990) obtained data on when peak numbers of hawks passed migration lookout points at Derby Hill, New York in 1987­89: d d d d d red-shouldered hawk red-tailed hawk Cooper's hawk sharp-shinned hawk broad-winged hawk March 23 ­ 27 throughout March and April March 23 and later April 12 and later April 21 ­ 23, none seen in March

These peak dates suggest that some red-shouldered hawks, Cooper's hawks, and red-tailed hawks will be in their nesting territories by mid-March or soon after. Years of observation by Peter Dent in southern Ontario suggest that red-shouldered hawks return to their nesting areas by about mid-March (range Feb. 28 ­ March 24). Many goshawks spend the winter in or near their nesting areas so migration counts reveal a sporadic flight (many immatures) of these birds in spring. Expect broad-winged hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and merlins to be established on their nesting ranges relatively late, when the leaves are beginning to flush. Cold, rainy weather in spring can delay nesting, sometimes up to two weeks.


Looking straight up at broad-winged hawks migrating in a "kettle." Can you spot the lone red-shouldered hawk? Using updrafts and bubbles of warm air to facilitate their journey, hundreds of migrating hawks may pass lookout points in autumn.

Finding and Reporting Nests

Finding and Reporting Nests

Introduction and Rationale

Most of the birds of prey in this book are dependent on forested habitats. This means timber harvesting and renewal activities have the potential to affect them by: (1) creating long or short-term disturbance which may cause these sensitive birds to abandon their nests or nesting areas, (2) removing suitable nest trees which are generally in short supply, (3) reducing canopy closure which exposes the adults, eggs, and nestlings to predation, (4) stimulating the growth of understorey shrubs in the hunting area, affecting the food supply of these birds or their ability to obtain it, and (5) by changing the competitive relationships among species (e.g., opening up a stand might make it LESS suitable for the red-shouldered hawk and MORE suitable for the larger red-tailed hawk). Individual nests cannot be protected with specific guidelines unless we know where they are. The guidelines which should be applied once a nest is found are discussed on page 16. However, if discovered during cutting operations, it may be too late to safeguard the nesting attempt and high-quality nesting habitat can be lost. Raptors show strong site fidelity (e.g., a pair of red-shouldered hawks used the same nesting area for 17 years). The best way to protect these sites is to undertake foot surveys of a proposed cutting area early in the planning process. For example, to find nests of the red-shouldered hawk, scan Forest Resource Inventory maps for potentially suitable habitat (a stand of old, tolerant hardwoods with moderate to high stocking [0.7 and greater is best] and trees at least about 18 m tall). Enter the stand and broadcast an amplified, tape-recorded call of a red-shouldered hawk. If adults respond, note the direction from which they came and follow their flight path back to the nest. This technique works well in the last half of April and in early May. Results are inconsistent early in April. Moreover, a tape-recorded call might NOT elicit a response from adults who are away hunting, or from a female incubating eggs on the nest (even if you played it at the base of the nest tree). Nests are much easier to spot before the leaves have flushed in the spring when they can be seen from about 200 m away, depending on the terrain, species composition of the stand, and its stocking. Once a nest is located, check carefully for activity. Look for adults in or near the nest, decoration (i.e., sprigs of green foliage) or down feathers on the rim, white wash (bird droppings) within about five metres of the base of the nest tree and regurgitated pellets nearby. Use the criteria on page 9 to judge whether or not the nest is active. Remember that there is variation. Some active nests might not have any decoration visible early in April or May (approximately 11% of 65 red-shouldered hawk nests where chicks were known to be present later). Expect down feathers on the rim any time from late April through early July, and whitewash throughout June until the chicks fledge.


Finding and Reporting Nests

Habitat can also be protected at a strategic level. The OMNR has developed wildlife habitat modeling tools which are used during forest management planning on Crown land to help to ensure that an adequate amount of suitable habitat remains on the landscape.

Sensitivity of Raptors

Birds of prey are especially sensitive to disturbance near their nests. The adults may abandon a site if they are disturbed early in the breeding season (esp. during nest building). When the adults are flushed from the nest, the eggs or young chicks may be chilled, or older chicks may tumble out. Raccoons, fishers, and black bears may follow human trails and eat eggs or chicks. Hawk eggs are also eaten by ravens, and adults and chicks may be killed by great horned owls that have been attracted to the site by noise.

d d

The risk of nest abandonment is greatest before the eggs are laid. The risk of reproductive failure is highest in the first two weeks after the eggs hatch when the chicks must be brooded (warmed) by their parents.

To minimize any negative effects you might have on the nest, view it from as far away as possible for only a few minutes at a time, and visit it again very infrequently. Do not go right up to the nest tree until the chicks fledge. Leave the nesting area as quickly as possible, especially if the weather is cold or rainy. Nesting success is naturally lower if spring and summer are exceptionally cool and wet. When you find a stick nest in the bush, try to fill out the Raptor Nest Form on page 10, or at a minimum make the following notes:

species of nest tree species of hawk d evidence of activity (adults present near or in the nest tree, calling or silent, down feathers on the rim of the nest, fresh green decoration on

d d

the nest, whitewash on the nest or nest tree) d chicks heard or seen in the nest d features of the nest that would help to identify the hawks

(size of sticks, shape and size of nest, location in the tree) d the location of the site in enough detail to find it again d date d your name

Flagging tape should be used only very sparingly and not on the nest tree itself because predators and humans are attracted by it.


Probability of Nest Being Active

Probability of a Nest Being Active:

The following figure shows how you can judge the probability that a nest is active based on different evidence (from Naylor and Szuba 1998): d hawk on nest, perched in nest tree or adjacent tree d hawk seen or heard in stand but not on nest d nest with down feathers and decoration d nest with down or decoration d nest without down or decoration d no hawks seen or heard in the stand d nest with down feathers and decoration d nest with down or decoration d nest without down or decoration d nest in a state of disrepair Record all the evidence, but use the highest level of evidence to judge whether a particular nest is active in a given year. The chance of seeing adults present also depends on the species -- adult Cooper's hawks are unlikely to be seen even though their nest might be active, but redshouldered hawks and goshawks almost ALWAYS reveal themselves. Remember that a nest which is inactive this year might be active next year -- even old stick nests are valuable real estate! greatest

probability of nest being active


Which species is most likely to be using this medium-size, solid or "earthy" nest, decorated with hemlock and built in a beech tree? See page 75.


Ontario Raptor Nest Form

Ontario Raptor Nest Form

Date* District General Location Probable Hawk Species Active? Your Name Township

o Yes o No o Unsure

Evidence of Activity (please check off all that apply) o adult(s) in nest o adults nearby o adults calling o chicks seen or heard in the nest o chicks seen or heard nearby o whitewash on nest or tree or ground o fresh green decoration on nest o fresh sticks on nest (see white ends if fresh) o down feathers on the nest o egg shells nearby o other Nest Features (these help to identify hawk species) location in the tree and height (e.g., lowest main fork, upper fork in the canopy, upper side branch) d outside diameter of nest (cm) d outside depth of nest (cm) d thickness of sticks in the nest (straw [fine], pencil [medium], thumb or larger [large])

d d d

nest materials nest condition

Nest Tree (you may add details later after fledging) species of nest tree d diameter of nest tree (DBH in cm) d total height of nest tree (m) d other nests nearby



Habitat Features FRI stand codes (age, height, stocking, species composition)

general habitat type distance to nearest water and type *write out months

d d 10

Please Attach a Map

Sample Ontario Raptor Nest Form


Ontario Raptor Nest Form

Date* May 11/98 Your Name Joe Smith/OMNR District North Bay Township Sproule General Location near Pike lake Probable Hawk Species Goshawk Active?

y o Yes o No o Unsure

Evidence of Activity (please check off all that apply) y o adult(s) in nest o adults nearby y o adults calling o chicks seen or heard in the nest o chicks seen or heard nearby o whitewash on nest or tree or ground y o fresh green decoration on nest o fresh sticks on nest (see white ends if fresh) y o down feathers on the nest o egg shells nearby y o other a second adult flew in and dive-bombed me! Nest Features (these help to identify hawk species) location in the tree and height lowest main fork 10 m up (e.g., lowest main fork, upper fork in the canopy, upper side branch) 100 cm d outside diameter of nest (cm) 100 cm d outside depth of nest (cm) d thickness of sticks in the nest (straw [fine], pencil [medium], thumb or larger [large]) thumb-size with some really long sticks

d d d

nest materials nest condition

sticks only in good shape

Nest Tree (you may add details later after fledging) species of nest tree By 60 cm d diameter of nest tree (DBH in cm) 28 m d total height of nest tree (m) 3 all in Be trees within 50 m d other nests nearby



Habitat Features FRI stand codes (age, height, stocking, species, composition):

Mh6 Be2 By2 120-25-0.7

general habitat type mature maple-beech distance to nearest water and type stream approximately 20 m away *write out months

d d

Please Attach a Map


Sample Ontario Raptor Nest Form -- Map

Sample -- Ontario Raptor Nest Form Map


Bird Studies Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum

Bird Studies Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum

Bird Studies Canada co-ordinates an annual spring roadside count of red-shouldered hawks along designated 19 km survey routes. The routes are run by volunteers using standardized tape-recorded calls. Bird Studies Canada also collects information on nesting locations of rare, threatened, and endangered species under the Ontario Birds at Risk Program. To contribute to one of these programs or for more information contact: Bird Studies Canada P.O. Box 160 Port Rowan, Ontario NOE 1MO (519) 586-3531 The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto has maintained a data base of bird nests for decades and greatly appreciates any reliable information contributed to its Ontario Nest Records Scheme by the public and professionals. This valuable data base is accessible to anyone with research interests with permission from the ROM. If you find an active hawk nest, consider photocopying and filling out the form on the following page. Mail it to: Ontario Nest Records Scheme Royal Ontario Museum Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology 100 Queen's Park Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C6 (416) 586-5549

Northern harrier in flight -- note the dihedral shape, white rump, and dark wing tips.




4. Photo Record No. 5. Year

2. Card No.

3. ROM Museum No. Do not write in shaded area 7. Cowbird/Host 8. County, District R.M.: Comments 9. Township: 10. Locality: nearest town, landmark

6. Species

Ontario Nest Records Scheme Card

Date (write out months)




No. Nests

Cowbird Eggs Young

45. Total visits


13. Longitude:

16/17 Name and Address of Observer

11. Lat. Long. Ref.: 12. Latitude: 15. Card Source 14. Grid Ref.: Map No.:

2. Card No. Nest Description 20. Outer Material: 21. Nest Lining: 22. Nest Form: 37. Incubation Stage:* 29. Nest Height M. (ft x .3048 = m)


18. Habitat Type:

19. Habitat Desc.

27. Plant Species Supporting Nest: 23. Outer height 24. Inner height 25. Outer diameter 26. Inner diameter 36. Incubation period days 34. Clutch Size No. Eggs. Hatched 38. % Hatch

Nest size (cm) (in. x 2.54 = cm)

28. Nest Position:

p Fresh p Slight p Moderate p Heavy p Addled


No. Young Fledged

39. % Fledge

Outcome of nest unknown

Ontario Nest Records Scheme Card

p because evidence for or against success is not conclusive p because observations were not continued

Return by December 31 to: ONTARIO NEST RECORDS SCHEME Department of Ornithology, ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM 100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C6

* Refers to the % of incubation completed.


Habitat Management Guidelines

Habitat Management Guidelines

The following table summarizes how timber management activities are currently modified around raptor (and heron) nests on Crown land. Active nests are identified as Areas of Concern (AOCs). Nests are protected from disturbance by establishing no-cut buffers (reserves), and areas where cutting must be modified and timing restrictions applied (MMAs). Private land owners wanting to maintain a diversity of wildlife should try to follow the intent of these guidelines. The guidelines are based on the premises that raptors are sensitive to disturbance around their nests, stick nests and the trees that contain them are valuable real estate which is in short supply, these nests are built in suitable habitat which tends to be relatively uncommon on the landscape, and that raptor populations tend to be low.


Recommended guidelines for the protection of nesting habitat for raptors and great blue herons on Crown Land within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest of central Ontario. From Naylor (1998).

Species Timing Restriction6 March 15 to August 31

Area of Concern Reserve /MMA1



OMNR 1987a

peregrine falcon (nests active within past 5 years)

Circular AOC, 3 km d prepare nest site management radius, centered on nest plan documenting acceptable timing, amount and proximity of forest management activities

d selection harvest permitted in MMA1 d selection or shelterwood harvest

MMA1 Feb 15 to June 30 OMNR 1987b MMA2 Mar 15 to May 31

bald eagle (nests active within past 5 years)

permitted in MMA2

Circular reserve, 100 m radius, centered on nest Additional 100 m radius MMA1 Additional 200­600 m radius MMA22

d retain at least 3 supercanopy trees

Table -- Protection of Nesting Habitat

within 400 m of nests to provide nest, roost and perch sites d within 400 m of eagle lakes, retain at least 1 supercanopy tree per 650 m of shoreline d protect nests not used within the last 5 years with a 100 m reserve (no MMA) d avoid locating roads or landings in the AOC5



Recommended guidelines for the protection of nesting habitat for raptors and great blue herons on Crown Land within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest of central Ontario

Species Timing Restriction6 March 1 to July 31

Area of Concern Reserve /MMA1


Source Penak 1983 Naylor 1994

Table -- Protection of Nesting Habitat

osprey (nests active within past 5 years)

Circular reserve, 150 m radius, centered on nest Additional 150 m radius MMA

d selection or shelterwood harvest

permitted in MMA d retain at least 3 supercanopy trees within MMA to provide nest, roost and perch sites d within 400 m of osprey lakes, retain at least 1 supercanopy tree per 650 m of shoreline d protect nests not used within last 5 years with a 50 m reserve d avoid locating roads or landings in the AOC5 April 1 to August 15

great blue heron (active colonies)

150 m radius reserve, measured from edge of colony Additional 150 m radius MMA

d selection or shelterwood harvest

Bowman & Siderius 1984 Agro & Naylor 1994

permitted in MMA d maintain minimum 30 m reserve where colony is > 150 m from treed edge d avoid locating roads or landings in the AOC5

Recommended guidelines for the protection of nesting habitat for raptors and great blue herons on Crown Land within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest of central Ontario

Species Timing Restriction6 March 1 to July 31

Area of Concern Reserve /MMA1


Source Szuba & Bell 1991

active red-shouldered hawk or Cooper's hawk

Circular reserve 150 m radius, centered on nest Additional 21 ha MMA

d selection harvest that retains at

least 70 percent canopy closure is permitted in the MMA d locate MMA so it encompasses suitable nesting habitat and satellite nests d protect satellite nests with a 20 m reserve d avoid locating roads or landings in the AOC5 March 1 to July 31

Table -- Protection of Nesting Habitat

active northern goshawk3

Circular reserve, 50 m d selection harvest that retains at radius, centered on nest least 70 percent canopy closure Additional 100 m is permitted in the MMA radius MMA d protect satellite nests with no known history of use by a 20 m reserve d avoid locating roads or landings in the AOC5 d see footnote #3

Naylor 1994



Recommended guidelines for the protection of nesting habitat for raptors and great blue herons on Crown Land within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest of central Ontario

Species Timing Restriction6 March 1 to July 31

Area of Concern Reserve /MMA1


Source Naylor 1994

Table -- Protection of Nesting Habitat

active Circular MMA, broad-winged 150 m radius hawk, red-tailed centered on nest hawk, sharp-shinned hawk or merlin

1 2

d normal harvest permitted in

the MMA d in selection and shelterwood cuts, retain nest tree and adjacent trees to maintain high canopy closure and protect nest tree

d confirm status before harvest


inactive4 Circular reserve 20 m red-shouldered radius, centered on nest hawk, Cooper's hawk or northern goshawk


d in selection and shelterwood


inactive4 no reserve broad-winged hawk, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk or merlin

cuts, retain nest tree and adjacent trees to maintain high canopy closure and protect nest tree


Modified management area Based on topography and line of sight (see OMNR 1987b: 13) Apply guidelines to all nests in a cluster known to have been active within last 5 years Includes nests located outside breeding season when true identity and status of nest is unknown and those nests where species identity is known but which have not been used within the last 5 years Where roads must be located in the AOC, ensure the width of the cleared corridor does not exceed 10 m for tertiary roads and 20 m for secondary roads May be adjusted for local conditions and nest status (e.g., activity may be permitted in the MMA early, if the nest failed during incubation)

Identifying Forest Raptors

Identifying Forest Raptors -- Silhouettes

falcon d streamlined d long tail d short, pointed wings d purposeful flight d long, rowing wingbeats or fluttering flight

accipiter d intermediate shape d short, wide wings d tail longer and narrower than buteo d alternates flapping and gliding

buteo d robust d long, wide wings d short, wide tail d often soars in high, wide circles

eagle d very long, wide wings d short, wide tail d heavy flight

vulture d small head d holds wings in a dihedral d short tail d glides often

All these birds soar. Falcons and buteos will hover. Buteos and accipiters may look alike in flight, but accipiters are more buoyant, with fast, shallow wingbeats and long glides. Buteo flight is heavier with deep wingbeats and shorter glides.


Identifying Forest Raptors

Adults Overhead



peregrine falcon

Cooper's hawk

sharp-shinned hawk


broad-winged hawk

red-shouldered hawk

red-tailed hawk



turkey vulture


bald eagle

Identifying Forest Raptors

Key Features of Immatures

These images highlight the features we think are most useful for identification.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


narrow light bands on the tail; big, dark tear drops on the beige breast; beige crescent-shaped windows in wing when soaring

light V on the back; narrow dark bands on tail; dark belly band; may have peachy throat

wide tail bands; heavy streaks on breast and belly; light eye line; lots of mottling on back

Cooper's Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

light speckles on head; narrow streaks on breast with fewer on belly; dark cap

narrow dark bands on tail; breast with moderate streaks and tear drops but may be clear in the middle

wide tail bands and narrow white line on tip; very few mottles on back; heavy reddish tear drops on breast


24 Identifying Forest Raptors

Immatures at a Glance

Red-tailed Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk


Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Identifying Forest Raptors

Incubating Birds

Incubating birds may sit so low and so tightly on the nest that few useful features are visible and colours may be difficult to distinguish.

Red-tailed hawk has broad tail, greenish-yellow cere, and light-coloured V on its back

Red-shouldered hawk has a bright yellow cere, broad tail, and its head may be much lighter than its back

The Cooper's hawk has a long neck and dark cap; its tail is narrow and may extend well beyond the rim of the nest

A goshawk may show a dark cap contrasting with its white eye line. The broadwinged hawk has a uniformly dark head and back. Use these features in combination with characteristics of the nest, nest tree, and habitat to identify an incubating bird.


The Buteos

The Buteos

Buteos have long, wide wings adapted for soaring on bubbles of warm air and updrafts, especially on sunny days between 10:00 a.m. and about 2:00 p.m. Updrafts occur when wind is forced up and over a cliff, hill, or other barrier. The folded wings of buteos extend to near the end of the relatively short tail. For the red-tailed hawk, almost all breeding birds are at least two years old. For the red-shouldered hawk and broad-winged hawk, a small percentage (less than 10%) of nesting birds might be in immature plumage. Buteos are not usually as aggressive as accipiters (except the shy Cooper's hawk) near their nests, but a biologist in Tweed District was attacked by a red-shouldered hawk with four chicks in its nest. Every nesting pair differs in how they may respond to an observer and to tape-recorded calls. Red-tailed hawks spend about a week building their nest, carrying sticks to the nest usually in their beaks. Old or alternate nests tend to accumulate in good territories (up to seven for red-shouldered hawks and broad-winged hawks). An old nest might be re-used later. The longest continuous record of territorial occupancy was a red-shouldered hawk nesting area near Uxbridge Ontario that was used for 17 years (Dent 1994). A nest in Parry Sound District was used over at least a 13 year period. If a pair returns to an old territory, they may begin decorating the old nest with conifer sprigs as soon as they return, as noted by Dent (1994) for red-shouldered hawks in southern Ontario. In our experience, fresh decoration suggests that the nest should be checked again for further signs of activity. Dent (1994) and some OMNR records suggest that more than one nest may be decorated within a territory, but the active nest has much more work done on it; new twigs may be added and decoration is much thicker around the rim of an active nest. Decoration might be obvious throughout the incubation and chickrearing stages, but it may even be absent as fledging approaches. Down feathers on the rim mean that incubation in that nest is almost a certainty. The smaller male buteo does most of the hunting while the female incubates the eggs and broods the young until they are a few weeks old. Both parents hunt to supply hungry, older chicks. Chicks may hide silently in the nest. Older chicks may call and beg for food in the early morning, which can help observers to locate a nest. The chicks can also be very noisy for several days after they fledge, following the parents and begging loudly for food. Young red-shouldered hawks fledge at about six weeks of age (late June to mid-July) and may stay near the nest for the next two to three weeks. The parents continue to feed their chicks to varying degrees for up to two months after fledging. Fledglings are able to capture only the smallest prey (e.g., insects) until their hunting skills improve.


The Buteos

For these perch-hunters, reproductive success is thought to vary in part with the availability of perches. This is especially important for the red-tailed hawk and the broad-winged hawk. Clear cuts where perches are lacking will not be good red-tailed hawk habitat.

Adult red-tailed hawk with mouse. Buteos hunt for rodents, reptiles and amphibians from perches, waiting silently to pounce on their prey.


Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

Classified as vulnerable by COSEWIC and COSSARO today, this was once the most common hawk in southern Ontario. Urban expansion, lakeshore development, conversion of forest to farmland, forest fragmentation, past forestry practices on private and Crown land, and draining of wetlands have all contributed to its decline.

Field Marks of Adults

draven-sized dwide black and narrow white bands on the tail dblack & white checkerboard pattern on the wing dcrescent-shaped windows in the wing dreddish epaulets (seldom visible) on shoulders doften with a pale tan head dpale to darker rusty breast with a few darker streaks at throat dbright yellow cere and feet dthe call kee'-ah kee'-ah kee'-ah is imitated well by blue jays (don't be fooled!)

Immatures: Light breast with big, dark tear-drops; dark back with few speckles; wide dark and narrow lighter bands on the tail; crescent-shaped wing panels. Habitat: Until the 1980s, some red-shouldered hawks nested in small, isolated woodlots, but competition with red-tailed hawks and other factors have relegated them to large tracts (> 80 ha) of continuous forest today. Mature tolerant hardwoods (maple, beech, yellow birch) with pockets of medium to large sawlog-sized trees near a wetland, stream, or lakeshore are ideal. Beech is clearly the preferred nest tree where available, perhaps because its smooth bark makes it more difficult for predators such as raccoons to climb. Nests: Fine to medium-sized twigs are used to build the medium-sized nest (45­90 cm diameter; ~ 50 cm deep) in the lowest main fork of a hardwood tree (> 95%) at the base of the live crown. See Appendix I for a breakdown of nest trees. The nest looks bulky and solid or earthy because it is thickly decorated with greenery (usually hemlock; rarely other conifers) which eventually breaks down. Nests less than 250 m from a stream, lake, marsh, or pond. Several alternate nests may be found within a core area measuring 300 m in radius. Nests are typically reused, and a nesting area can be active for decades. Eggs are dull white with brown spots concentrated at one end. Natural History: The red-shouldered hawk pounces on chipmunks and other small mammals from a perch, and hunts near wetlands for frogs and snakes. In spring, red-shouldered hawks return to Ontario by mid to late March. Unless incubating, they respond well to tape recordings of their calls. They call while doing diving, soaring courtship displays over their nesting area, and in response to intruders at the nest. Incubating birds (and chicks) may be silent and almost invisible, but look for the broad tail, pale head, and bright yellow cere. Fall migration peaks in mid to late October.


Red-shouldered Hawk

Immature Has light breast with big, dark tear-drops. The back is dark with a few speckles. The tail has narrow lighter bands.

Adult Adults have wide black and narrow white bands on the tail. A checkerboard pattern appears on the wings. The head is pale tan. Breast is pale to darker rust with a few darker streaks at the throat.

Overhead Crescent-shaped windows in the wings can be seen from underneath when in flight.

Nest Fine to medium-sized twigs are used to build the medium-sized nest in the lowest main fork of a hardwood tree.


Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

This is the most common hawk in southern, agricultural Ontario.

Field Marks of Adults

than a raven dreddish tail ddark belly band dwhite underwings with dark outlines, commas & crescents drectangular windows in the wings ddark head and back dpale V on the back ddull, yellowish-green cere dthe call kee'eeeer is the classic, bloodcurdling hawk scream Immatures: Peachy or white throat; dark belly band; narrow dark and wide lighter bands on the tail; speckled V on the back. Habitat: Where mature forest and open country meet. Nests are usually close to the forest edge, in a big opening, in a small isolated stand or fence row, or in open forest with low stocking or low canopy closure. Old tolerant hardwood, mixedwood, or conifer stands are used providing they contain trees large enough to support the bulky nest. Home range and territory size varies with habitat quality. In agricultural areas with only fragments of forest, active nests of different pairs may be just 500 m apart, as long as the incubating adults cannot see each other from their own nests. Timber cutting which reduces canopy closure to < 70% may enable red-tails to replace red-shouldered hawks in small woodlots and in continuous forest. Nests: Large (70­150 cm diameter and 40­120 cm deep), bulky nest made with medium and coarse (thumb size) twigs and sticks. Hemlock decoration is often abundant (sometimes pine is used). Usually two-thirds of the way up in the middle of the crown in a secondary fork or on a lateral branch close to the trunk. Infrequently at the base of the crown in the first main crotch. Nest tree is hardwood (> 80%), especially maple, beech, oak, and ash, but also uses white pine frequently. Nests are reused often. See Appendix II for more detail on nests. Eggs are dirty white usually with brown spots. Natural History: Often perches in the open on utility poles, fence posts, and isolated trees where it watches for small to medium-sized mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. It sometimes hovers before pouncing on prey. Flight of this large hawk is ponderous and slow. Adults may dive at intruders at the nest. The red-tailed hawk is highly territorial and responds well to tape-recorded calls of the redshouldered hawk. Courtship displays are spectacular and include diving, screaming, and pedaling with the feet while hanging motionless in the air.



Red-tailed Hawk


Peachy or white throat; dark belly band; narrow dark and wide lighter bands on the tail; speckled V on the back.


Larger than a raven. It has a reddish or pink tail and dark belly band. The head and back are dark. A pale V appears on the back.

Nest Overhead

Rectangular windows in the wings. White underwings with dark outlines, commas and crescents.

Large, bulky nest of coarse twigs and sticks. Usually found twothirds up in the middle of the crown in a secondary fork or on a sturdy lateral branch.


Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

The most common hawk in Ontario forests, thousands of broad-wings in huge kettles pass migration lookout points in spring and fall.

Field Marks of Adults

dcrow-sized dwide black and white bands on the tail ddark head and back dstrong rusty bars on the breast dunderwing white with a strong black outline and rectangular windows dthe call pee-tee'eee is a highpitched whistle easily imitated by humans and blue jays

Immatures: Large, dark speckles on the breast are often missing at the belly; a few light speckles on a dark back; tail with narrow dark bands except for the last dark band which is wide. Habitat: Continuous forest with immature to mature stands of conifers or hardwoods. Compared with the red-shouldered hawk, habitat is younger with more small openings. Red-tailed hawk uses older, patchier habitat. Nests usually less than 250 m from streams or lakes. Surprisingly little is known about home range and territory considering how common this little hawk is. Nests: Nest-building occurs late -- from early May to mid-June in Ontario. The nest is small to medium sized (30­60 cm in diameter; 30­45 cm deep). It is loosely built (crude) and made of fine (straw-size) to medium (pencil-size) twigs. The twigs are often dead ones gathered from the forest floor so they don't show bright white ends. Placed half way up a tree in the first main fork, or against the trunk and supported by lateral branches. Sparse decoration may be hardwood or conifer. Nest tree usually hardwood (> 85%), especially birch (white or yellow); also uses poplar, maple, oak, and white pine. A new nest is often built in a favourite spot (66% of cases), but in a third of the cases an old nest is re-used. See Appendix III for more detail on nests. Eggs are dull white with many dark or light brown spots. Natural History: This and the kestrel are the only two hawks which may be seen regularly perching on roadside utility wires (the larger red-tails might use the poles). This smallest buteo hunts from a perch below the canopy, often in the forest at the edge of an opening, or near a water body. It eats a wide variety of small prey including insects, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Courtship display includes high soaring in wide arcs, and some diving. Great horned owls kill many incubating adults in some areas, so it is important to maintain cover around an active nest. Broad-wings form flocks or kettles, sometimes containing thousands of birds, during migration (especially fall) as they head to southern Mexico and South America for the winter.


Broad-winged Hawk


Has large, dark speckles on the breast which are missing on the belly. A few light speckles appear on a dark back. Tail has narrow dark bands except the last dark band which is wide.


This crow-sized hawk has wide black and white bands on the tail. It has a dark head and back with rusty bars on the breast.

Nest Overhead

Underwing is white with a strong black outline and rectangular windows.

Small to medium-sized loosely built nest of small to medium-sized twigs. Usually half way up in the first main fork of a hardwood tree.


The Accipiters

The Accipiters

Accipiters are spirited, fearless hunters with relatively short, rounded wings and long, narrow tails which give them great agility. When folded, the short accipiter wings rarely extend to the middle of the tail. The very long tail acts as a rudder and a brake as an accipiter recklessly chases prey. Accipiters soar for a short time each day. During active flight, they alternate bouts of fast, shallow flapping with long glides. The diminutive sharp-shinned hawk is the most buoyant, rising and falling with each wing beat. The heavier goshawk flies more evenly. Females are larger than males, as in most birds of prey, and the female's plumage is browner overall than that of the male. Accipiters pluck their prey at the kill site and finish the job near their nests. A nesting territory may have several favorite plucking perches or butcher blocks scattered within 75 to 100 m of the nest tree. Rocks, snags, logs, fallen or arched trees, or big, low, exposed tree limbs are used for this purpose. Prey remains, whitewash, and regurgitated pellets of indigestible material can be found at the plucking perches or near the nest tree. Although they sometimes take larger or smaller prey than average, the size of the prey usually reveals the identity of the predator. For example, the remains of buntings, goldfinches, and sparrows suggest a sharp-shinned hawk nest is nearby. The mediumsized Cooper's hawk will leave the remains of thrushes, jays, and flickers. The powerful goshawk leaves grouse bones and feathers, and fur and bones from squirrels, rabbits, and hares in its nesting territory. According to Meng (1951) the male Cooper's Hawk establishes a territory and tries to attract a mate by calling when they return to nest in the spring. (For the goshawk, it is the female's screams which are said to attract a partner.) During nest building and early incubation, accipiters may perform a dawn duet (especially just before sunrise) which sounds like the calls of the pileated woodpecker. The duet may last an hour and be followed by a courtship display. Displays of Cooper's hawk and goshawk are similar and include calling, soaring, diving, gliding with wings in a dihedral, and flying close together slowly over the nesting area, both at dawn and mid-morning (about 10:00 a.m). After the display, the larger bird (the female) may suddenly dive straight down into the nest tree. Look for long, fluffy, white undertail coverts on the goshawk during courtship displays. Find a spot with a panoramic view of suitable habitat and look for displaying birds in early morning during courtship and nest building. Note that 10 to 20% of the nesting female accipiters may be in immature plumage. Pair formation and nest building take two to four weeks after the birds return to the breeding range (late March through mid-April for Cooper's hawks; earlier for goshawks, and later for sharp-shinned hawks [early to mid-April]). According to Meng (1951), the male Cooper's hawk breaks all the twigs for the nest off of trees by himself. While carrying a stick he may fly fast about two metres above the forest


The Accipiters

floor then shoot straight up into the nest tree. He may leave the same way. New or refurbished accipiter nests will show freshly broken ends on the twigs. Accipiter nests are lined with flakes or chunks of outer bark. During nest building, a pair roosts together near the nest tree (true for all three species). The night-time roost of the Cooper's hawk may be a grove of hemlocks or white pines. Whitewash accumulates at these roosts. Once the chicks are too big to brood at night, the female may roost near the nest tree where whitewash and molted feathers accumulate. Male accipiters do almost all the hunting during egg-laying, incubation and early chick-rearing, and so may be away for long periods. The male eventually appears if the female calls or is disturbed. Goshawks and Cooper's hawks may build a new nest each year in a traditional nesting area, may switch among old nests (alternate nests), or may use the same nest for three or four years in a row. Sharp-shinned hawks rarely use old nests. One nesting area in Parry Sound District contained 10 old Cooper's hawk nests. Goshawk populations fluctuate greatly from year-to-year, often in parallel with prey populations so a nesting area may be used for a few years, temporarily abandoned, then used again after all evidence of former occupancy has vanished. Alternate nests are usually less than 200 m apart.

Goshawk decorating its large, shaggy nest in a yellow birch tree.


Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

This powerful accipiter is fearless at its nest, sometimes diving at and striking intruders.

Field Marks of Adults

draven-sized ddark dfine,

cap with white eye line dslate blue or grey back pale grey bars on the breast dred or orange eye dwhite speckles on the nape dprominent, fluffy white undertail coverts dindistinct wing panels dif you hear the nasal call kra-kra-kra-kra-kra, duck! Immatures: Bold white eye line and white speckles on the nape; many large, dark tear drops on the breast; streaks on undertail coverts (Cooper's coverts are white). Habitat: Look for the reclusive goshawk in large, relatively undisturbed areas of mature conifer (natural or plantations), or in mature to old hardwood forest. The hunting territory often includes younger stands. Nests are often within a few hundred metres of water. The home range may be 570 to 3,700 ha. The defended portion of the territory is about 170 ha. Nests: The typically wide (45­100 cm diameter), deep (up to a metre in hardwoods and 50 cm in conifers) nest sits in the lowest main fork of a big deciduous tree or near the base of the canopy in a conifer. Long, robust sticks (thumb size) make the nest look shaggy. Active nests are usually thickly decorated with conifer (hemlock, pine, cedar). Pine, beech, yellow birch and poplar are the preferred nest trees. More than 70% of the nests are built in hardwoods, but any species big enough to hold the huge nest may be used. Sometimes an old red-shouldered hawk nest is confiscated, and in Parry Sound an active red-shouldered hawk nest was just 250 m from an active goshawk nest. See Appendix III for more detail on nests.The eggs are white and usually unspotted. Natural History: Although it nests in old forests, this powerful hunter may fly silently under the canopy of young stands in pursuit of grouse, squirrels, and snowshoe hares. A night roost and several plucking perches may be within about 150 m of the nest tree. Some goshawks migrate and some remain near the nesting territory all winter. They begin incubation early (mid to late April). More likely to respond to taped calls of a great horned owl than those of a red-shouldered hawk. Often, the female stays on the nest while the male is away hunting, but her calls will bring him home within minutes. Encounters with these wild, regal creatures are thrilling -- the pair is aggressive at their nest and may dive bomb intruders. Populations fluctuate greatly, often in parallel with their prey so that nesting areas may be temporarily abandoned and re-occupied a few years later.


Northern Goshawk


White eye line and white speckles on the nape. Many large tear drops on the breast.


This raven-sized hawk has a dark cap and white eye line. Its back is slate blue or grey and it has fine pale grey bars on the breast. Adults have red or orange eyes.


Has prominent fluffy, white undertail coverts with indistict wing panels.


A typically wide, shaggy nest in jack pine (left) and yellow birch (right). Nests in hardwood trees are deeper than those in conifers.


Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Classified as no longer at risk by COSEWIC and COSSARO in 1997, this is the original chicken hawk or "blue darter." The Cooper's hawk is agile and reckless in pursuit of prey, but extremely wary at its nest.

Field Marks of Adults

dcrow-sized dblack cap with lighter nape dthe head appears rather large in flight ddark back may be bluish dlong legs dlong tail usually rounded in flight ddark, rusty bars on the breast dindistinct wing panels dred or orange eyes dcall is a rapid, sharp cra-cra-cra-cra-cra

Immatures: Breast lightly streaked; undertail coverts white, dark cap. Habitat: Nests usually in natural or planted medium to old conifer stands (especially if adjacent to hardwood stands), and also in mature hardwood forest with at least some medium to large sawlog-sized trees that will hold the bulky nest. In southern Ontario, nest sites tend to have a relatively high basal area and canopy closure, to be far from roads, and to be within about 100 m of a clearing (Plosz 1990). Up to 10 old nests may be within a few hundred metres. An active nest in Parry Sound District was 80 m from an active red-shouldered hawk nest. Nests: Uniform, pencil-sized sticks form the bulky, loose nest, so much like an inverted haystack (60­75 cm in diameter, 40­60 cm deep). In hardwood trees nests are usually well within the canopy (75% of them) or in the lowest main fork (other 25%). Some of the low nests may be old red-shouldered hawk nests. Nests in conifers are broader and flatter and tight against the trunk on lateral branches. Among hardwoods, beech is preferred, maple is used, and a few nests are in basswood, oak, or yellow birch. See Appendix II for more detail on nests. The Cooper's hawk is so quiet, wary, and easily spooked that several visits to a nest may be needed to confirm use. Birds may flush when you are 300 m away. The nest is seldom decorated but may show down feathers on the rim in April and May and whitewash on or near the nest tree in late June if chicks are inside. Look for an adult's long tail and long, thin neck with dark head cap projecting over the rim of the nest. The dull white eggs may have a few pale spots and bluish tinge. Natural History: In Parry Sound adults were nest-building in late April. Southern Ontario birds are laying eggs in early to mid-May, the young hatch by mid-June, and most fledge by mid-July but stay nearby until late July (Plosz 1990). In many cases Plosz noted prey remains within about 100 m of the nest. The home range is about 400 to 1,800 ha. The population plunged in the 1960s as a result of earlier shooting, pesticide contamination, and the conversion of forest to farmland. Migration counts suggest a widespread recovery is underway.


Cooper's Hawk


Breast lightly streaked, undertail coverts white. Dark cap.


This crow-sized hawk has a black cap with a lighter nape. Head appears rather large in flight.


Long tail usually rounded in flight.


Uniform, pencil-sized sticks form the bulky, loose nest (beech on left and red pine on right) which looks like an inverted haystack in a hardwood tree.


Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus

The sharp-shin is a smaller version of the Cooper's Hawk in appearance, but the nests and habitats of these birds differ greatly.

Field Marks of Adults

dblue jay-sized but with a longer tail ddark cap and back ddark, rusty bars on the breast dred eye dnaked legs appear very thin dlong tail is squarish in flight and head appears relatively small dindistinct wing panels dcall is a very rapid, high-pitched kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek.

Immatures: Heavy brown or reddish tear drops on the breast; darker overall than adults; wide tail bands. Habitat: Look for the sharp-shinned hawk and its nest in young to medium age forests with dense groves of spruce, hemlock, and sometimes cedar. Nest trees are often near a small clearing or a path. Nests: Well-hidden high in the foliage of conifers [spruce (44% of the nests), cedar, hemlock, fir, or white pine (17­19% each)]. The small to medium-sized nest (45­65 cm diameter) is shallow (15-30 cm deep) and resembles a platform or mass of fine twigs at the trunk. Knobby twigs of tamarack are commonly used. A good territory may have several old nests, but re-use of a nest is uncommon. Decoration is rare. Usually located about three-quarters the way up the tree and tight against the trunk. Eggs are dull white with rich, dark brown spots. Natural History: This small, dashing hawk eats mainly song birds and some rodents. Migration (mid-April through early May) and nesting are later than for the Cooper's hawk and much later than for the goshawk. Piles of feathers from the songbirds it has eaten are scattered within 50 m of the nest tree.


Sharp-shinned Hawk


Heavy brown or reddish tear drops on the breast; darker overall than the adults.


Blue jay-sized with a longer tail. Dark cap and back with dark, rusty bars on the breast. Has red eyes. Naked legs appear very thin.


The long tail is squarish in flight and the head appears relatively small. Has indistinct wing panels.


Well-hidden high in the foliage of a conifer tree. A shallow platorm of fine twigs tight against the trunk.


The Falcons

The Falcons

Swift and dashing birds, falcons hunt mainly in open spaces. They are streamlined and have long, pointed wings and narrow tails. The folded wings of falcons are long enough to cross well beyond the middle point of the tail. Active flight is fast and direct with strong, rowing wing beats. Dunne et al. (1988) compared accipiters and falcons this way (page 34): "Accipiters are bushwackers, masters of the artful dodge, with hair-trigger reflexes and agility that allows them to weave between branches. Falcons prefer wide open spaces; their mode of hunting is a one-on-one shootout, with all the chips going to the better flier." Like buteos and accipiters, falcons soar also. Three species of falcons flash through Ontario's skies: the jay-sized kestrel, the slightly larger merlin, and the crow-sized peregrine. The falcons nest on cliffs (peregrine), in tree cavities (kestrel), or in old stick nests (merlin). Falcons have a specialized tooth or hook on each side of the short, powerful beak to enable them to sever the spinal cord of their prey. In all species of falcons there is a noticeable bare patch of skin near the eye, skin which is the same colour as the cere (usually). When excited, perched falcons may bob their heads up and down and pump their tails. Among birds of prey in general, the bird-eaters (merlin, sharpshinned hawk, Cooper's hawk) tend to have more delicate feet (for tearing the thin skin of birds) than those which eat thick-skinned mammals (goshawk, the other hawks).

Peregrine falcon. Pointed wings and narrow tails make all falcons effective, spectacular hunters in open country.


The Falcons

Adult kestrel at its nest hole in a dead tree. None of our falcons builds its own nest. Peregrines nest on cliffs, merlins use old crow or raven nests, and kestrels use cavities that formed from decay or were excavated by pileated woodpeckers or flickers.


Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

The peregrine falcon is classified as endangered in Ontario by COSSARO and in Canada by COSEWIC.

Field Marks of Adults

dark stripe (moustache) on the side of the face back and wings (slaty or blue-grey) dfrom below, wings and body are uniformly light and are speckled with light grey dcall is a rapid kek-kekkek-kek kek.


dcrow-sized dprominent

Immatures: Brown back and wings; breast very heavily marked with dark streaks or spots. Wide moustache. Habitat: Nesting areas are usually tall cliffs facing grand, open vistas where peregrines can scan the skies for birds which they will usually knock right out of the sky. The openings can be water, disturbed areas, or young forests. Nests: In North America, the peregrine usually establishes its simple nest scrape on sheltered ledges on remote, tall (minimum 50 m) cliffs. Sometimes towers, steeples, or open nest boxes established by humans high on skyscrapers for these birds are used. Some peregrines occupy stick nests in other parts of the world, and even cavities in huge snags in some parts of the USA. Cliff nest sites may be used for decades by successive generations of peregrines. Natural History: The peregrine occurs throughout the world. It was almost extirpated from Ontario and elsewhere through toxic poisoning with DDT in the 1960s and 1970s, but recovery efforts by public and private agencies have been successful enough in "hacking" juveniles into the wild that peregrines are nesting again in the province. In casual flight, these birds seem to flit along on their wing tips with very shallow, fast beats. However, a hunting peregrine is one of the fastest birds, able to fold its wings and dive or "stoop" toward airborne prey at speeds of 100 to 300 km per hour, literally knocking it out of the sky. A peregrine may also use tail-chasing in straight flight to overtake its prey.


Peregrine Falcon


This crowsized falcon has a prominent dark stripe on the side of the face. Dark back and wings.


From below the wings and body look uniformly light and are speckled with light grey.


American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

This diminutive falcon is our most colourful raptor.

Field Marks of Adults

jay-sized dtwo black bars on each side of the face dreddish back and tail dwings are bluish on males but reddish on females dmales have one wide dark band near tip of tail dfemales have many narrow black bands on tail dwhite dots look like a string of lights on the trailing edge of the underwing in flight dthe call is a high, loud kill-y-kill-y-kill-y Immatures: Juveniles lose their juvenal plumage in the fall of the first year, unlike most raptors which have the first major molt the following year. Young are darker overall than adults, otherwise similar. Habitat: Look for the kestrel hovering in large openings ready to pounce on its prey, or perched conspicuously on utility wires or in isolated trees in cuts, burns, or fields waiting for prey to appear. While perched, it characteristically wags its tail. Kestrels occur throughout Ontario, from the agricultural south, north through the boreal forest region. Forest fires create excellent habitat. Logging can also produce good habitat if there are enough standing trees, preferably cavity trees, left on the site. Cuts and burns with standing live and dead trees which act as perches and nest sites have many more kestrels than those without these important habitat features. Nests: Kestrels are cavity-nesters, and will use natural cavities, old pileated woodpecker or flicker nest holes, or even nest boxes. These are birds of the open forest or forest edge. Natural History: This is the smallest diurnal raptor in North America. Unlike most other birds of prey, the sexes are strongly dimorphic in colour (adult males with blue wings and red back, females reddish all over the back and wings). Insects, frogs, and small mammals are their usual fare. Kestrels are valuable in helping to control populations of small rodents in young plantations. Both sexes incubate the eggs although the female does much more than the male who spells her when she leaves on foraging trips. Flight of the kestrel is rapid and buoyant. This tiny falcon often harasses larger birds of prey and crows and ravens.



American Kestrel


This blue jay-sized falcon has two black bars on each side of the face and a reddish back and tail. Wings are bluish on males and reddish on females.


White dots look like a string of lights on the trailing edge of the underwing in flight.




Falco columbarius

This pugnacious little falcon is very vocal and aggressive in defence of its air space. Much less common than the kestrel.

Field Marks of Adults


jay-sized dfaint or no dark stripe on the face (kestrel has two and peregrine has a prominent one) dheavy streaking on the breast dback a solid colour (dark blue on males, dark brown on females) dlooks very dark in flight dvery vocal dcall is a fast, high ki-ki-ki-ki-ki

Immatures: Like adult female but darker brown. Habitat: In forested habitat, look for merlins on the edge -- at the lakeshore, or at the edge of a cut, burn, or marsh. Occurs throughout the northern hemisphere. Nests: Merlins use old crow or raven nests, usually high in spruce or pine trees near the water's edge. Unlike other falcons, they may decorate the rim of the nest with fresh green sprigs and they may cache food nearby. Natural History: Merlins may dash out from a perch to chase airborne prey such as small birds and large insects, or to harass ravens which may be a threat to the merlin's eggs. Unlike kestrels, merlins do not hover. Their flight is powerful and direct. Courtship displays include high-speed flights, diving, and chases. Merlin nests are widely spaced, but Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is home to an unusually dense population which uses the abundant old crow and magpie nests and feasts on house sparrows. Home ranges during nesting are anywhere from 8 to 23 km2. This species suffered greatly from egg-shell thinning due to pesticide contamination of its food in the 1960s and 1970s.




This blue jay-sized falcon has faint or no dark stripe on the face. It has heavy streaking on the breast, and the back is dark blue on males and dark brown on females.


Looks very dark in flight.


Other Raptors -- Bald Eagle


Haliaeetus leucocephalus The bald eagle is classified by COSSARO as endangered in Ontario. Its large size and huge nest are unmistakable.

Field Marks of Adults

d eagle size! (2.1-2.5 m wingspan) d bright white head and tail contrasts with the dark brown body on mature birds d the long, wide wings are held straight out in flight d the call is a high-pitched, descending bipbip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip

Immatures: Fledglings are dark brown. Until 3+ years of age, the plumage may include irregular splotches of beige or white on a mainly dark body. Habitat: Eagle nests are found adjacent to large, productive lakes and rivers in mature forest with scattered supercanopy trees. The best lakes have a high ratio of shoreline to surface area of water. Spawning runs of fish attract eagles in spring.



Nests: A stick nest well over a meter deep and one to three metres in diameter in the lowest, stoutest main fork of a live poplar just below the canopy, or high in a sturdy, living white pine near a lake shore is sure to be that of a bald eagle. Look for fresh green decoration. Pure white eggs. The nesting area may have one or more alternate nests and can be used for decades. Since new nesting material is added each year, an old nest can reach stupendous proportions. Gerrard and Bortolotti (1988) noted that the "Great Nest" in Ohio, used for 35 years, was about 3.5 m deep and 2.5 m across at the top, and

Overhead Long, wide wings are held straight out in flight.

Other Raptors -- Bald Eagle

that the biggest nest in the world was made by a bald eagle in Florida -- 3 m across at the top and 6 m deep! Natural History: In 1900, there were one or more eagle nests for every 8 km of shoreline on Lake Erie, and eagles were common in most of Ontario. The eagle suffered from habitat loss through shoreline development, pesticide contamination of its food, lead poisoning, and accidental trapping. Northwestern Ontario is still a stronghold. Recovery programs have bolstered the Great Lakes population. The bald eagle catches fish by flying low and "casting its talons in a sweeping arc," and will also eat carrion and waterfowl. Courtship or territorial interactions sometimes result in a pair swirling downward with their talons locked. Newly fledged eaglets have a much larger wing area than their parents for additional lift. Mortality of eagles is especially high in the first year.


Other Raptors -- Osprey


Pandion haliaetus

This species is found throughout the world and is the only bird in its taxonomic family.

Field Marks of Adults

than an eagle dlong, narrow wings look crooked in flight short tail dwhite cap and black eye line dblack back dwhite chest which has a light brown necklace on the female dpowerful legs and feet dwhen viewed from below, see big white patches on the body and wings and big dark splotches at the wrists dthe call is a series of high, short whistles that humans can imitate



Immature: Very similar to the adult but with pale feather edges which stand out against the dark back. Habitat: Solitary ospreys are usually perched near the water's edge, but the nest can be several hundred metres from water. Nests may be near lakes or wetlands, or even in cutovers or burns. Nest: The bulky nest is almost as large as an eagle's. Whereas an eagle nest would be under the shade of the nest tree's crown, an

Overhead Big white patches on the body and wings.


Other Raptors -- Osprey

osprey nest is in the open, at or very near the top, usually in a broken tree and never low in the main fork. Most osprey nest trees (86%) are dead, but eagles rarely use dead trees. Conifers are preferred by ospreys. Nest platforms and telephone poles are also used. In other parts of the world, nesting may be almost colonial with some nests as close as 20 m apart. Natural History: The osprey hunts for fish while it is in flight, while hovering, or from a perch. When an osprey dives feet-first into the water, spicules on the toe pads keep slippery fish from escaping its grip, and closable nostrils keep water out.


Other Raptors -- Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus

This ground-nesting bird is often seen at the forest edge or in cuts and burns.

Field Marks of Adults

dcrow-sized body dlong tail and long, narrow wings dwhite patch on the rump dfacial ruff makes its head look blunt dblack wing tips dglides with wings in a dihedral dmales are pale grey above; females are brown

Immatures: The throat is peach-coloured on immatures and buffy on adult females, otherwise immatures look much like females. Habitat: The harrier (or marsh hawk) hunts for small mammals over open country (fields, meadows, bogs, clear cuts, burns). Nests: On the ground; made of cattails, sticks, grass. Natural History: The harrier occurs in North and South America as well as in Eurasia. With owl-like facial disks which help to funnel the sounds of prey to its ears, the harrier is the daytime equivalent of the short-eared owl. Its hearing is so acute that it can discover vole nests while cruising low overhead; this is about four times more acute than other diurnal raptors. Harriers eat mainly voles, other rodents, and small birds, which they hunt by flying and gliding slowly just over the top of low vegetation in the open. To complete the elaborate courtship ritual, the male transfers a rodent to the female's talons in flight.


Other Raptors -- Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Graceful skinheads of the sky.

Field Marks of Adults

than an eagle dnaked, red head dvery black body and wings black underwings are lighter near the wing tips dglides with wings in a strong dihedral dfemales are brown



Immature: Like adult but with a black head. Habitat: Turkey vultures occur wherever a ready supply of carrion and cliff nesting sites can be found. Nests: Cliffs, escarpments, rocky outcrops, caves, and crevices are suitable for the simple nest scrape which might contain a few wood chips, grasses, or stones. OMNR staff found a nest in a small cave near Parry Sound with an opening about 38 cm in diameter. Chicks were hissing inside. The eggs are whitish-grey with brown blotches concentrated on the big end. Natural History: This unmistakable bird has a wing span of nearly two metres and a small, naked head. With weak feet and beak, the vulture must wait for others to tear open a body cavity or for decay to soften its food. The birds may roost in groups on southfacing rock outcrops or low trees, then sun themselves there the next Silhouette morning. Juveniles and adults alike may defend themselves by hissing and by vomiting their latest meal of carrion on intruders. They are moving northward as widening highways ensure a steady supply of carrion. Migrating turkey vultures fly in small kettles of 6 to10 birds, all gliding and wheeling gracefully using thermals of hot air and updrafts to their advantage.


Other Raptors -- Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

A very large, powerful owl.

Bubo virginianus

Field Marks of Adults dlarger and more robust than a raven dprominent ear tufts dbright

yellow eyes and black beak devenly barred breast dwhite throat dthe call is five notes with a brief pause after the first three: who who-who' who-who, and may be heard as early as February Habitat: Great horned owls do well in areas modified by humans, and can even be found in the ravines of Toronto. Patches of old forest for nesting combined with hunting perches in open woodland or on forest edges make good habitat. Dense conifers are used for roosting by day. Cutting which reduces canopy closure too much around goshawk nests can result in replacement of goshawks by great horned owls. Nests: Great horned owls nest in natural cavities or in old hawk nests, particularly those built by red-tailed hawks (their daytime equivalent) because both of these birds prosper in fragmented forests. Natural History: Great horned owls are threatened by human disturbance at their nests, collisions with vehicles, shooting, and trapping. Dent (1994) suggested that early nesting (February to March) may give these owls an advantage when seeking nesting areas, and may also predispose hawks to predation if the owl becomes established in an old hawk territory. Owl chicks may flatten themselves in a nest so as to be invisible from below. Newly fledged chicks gradually lose their downy patches. These powerful birds eat small mammals up to the size of hares, skunks and small raccoons.


Other Raptors -- Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

This secretive owl occurs throughout the northern hemisphere.

Field Marks of Adults dcrow-sized dslim owl with longer ear tufts than the great horned owl dbreast has dark bars and streaks dbright yellow eyes and black beak dblack wrist markings on a light-coloured underwing dthe call is a long, low whoooo whoooo, as if made by blowing over the top of an empty pop bottle

Habitat: Look for the long-eared owl especially in medium-aged, dense, damp, groves of conifers and in plantations. Mixedwood, deciduous forest, and hardwood groves surrounded by farmland are used less often. Good habitat contains openings and edges where they can hunt. Dense patches of mature hawthorns or other dense cover are used for communal roosting outside the breeding season. These owls occur almost up to the treeline. Nests: Old crow nests in live conifers are preferred but hawk or squirrel nests are also used. Pure white, oval eggs. Natural History: The almost invisible long-eared owl roosts by day at the trunk of a tree in very dense cover if not sitting on its nest. When there is no alternative, a longeared owl will fluff up into a huge ball to make itself look as threatening as possible to an intruder. Elaborate distraction displays are also performed. During courtship, the male may clap his wings over his back as he sails near the female. Small mammals are the staple food.


Other Raptors -- Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Strix varia

This large, vocal owl is the night time equivalent of the red-shouldered hawk, and is perhaps the most visible and vocal of all the owls.

Field Marks of Adults

draven-sized dno ear tufts dbig, dark eyes and a whitish beak dthe plumage is loose and fluffy, in light shades of brown and grey dbarred neck feathers make a "turtle-neck" which contrasts with the streaked breast dthe call sounds like "who cooks for you? who cooks for youall"? and is easily imitated by humans (try it!)

Habitat: The barred owl is so similar to the red-shouldered hawk in its food and habitat requirements that it even uses old red-shouldered hawk nests. However, the owl often uses stands with more conifer than a red-shouldered hawk would prefer. Find them nesting in large tracts of mature tolerant hardwood forest with pockets of medium to large sawlog-sized trees and patches of hemlock or white pine, or in mature white pine stands. Forest fragmentation is a threat to this owl. Nests: Large, natural cavities, old hawk nests (especially redshouldered, Cooper's or goshawk nests) or old squirrel nests often near wetlands or other water. Nesting areas may be used for many years. Pure white oval eggs. Natural History: These are "the noisiest owls" according to Bent (1961), and can be heard all year, but especially in March and April. This is a gentle (for a raptor), curious owl that is easily approached. It flies silently and hunts by pouncing from a perch.


Other Nests

Other Nests

Common Raven: Large nest (50­150 cm in diameter, 30­45 cm deep) which looks very coarse because of the short, thick sticks used (thumb-sized and larger in diameter). Mammal hair and grass is often incorporated into the nest. No decoration. Nests in conifers (spruce and pine are 50% of the trees) and hardwoods (especially poplar). Usually in the upper third of the crown or the lowest main fork. Often reuse their old nests. In mature to old stands, often near lakes. Also nests on cliffs where whitewash accumulates on the adjacent rocks. Ravens are very vocal near their nests. American Crow: Small to medium-sized nest (30­75 cm diameter, 25­30 cm deep). Looks like a kettle drum or inverted helmet. Uniform, fine to medium-sized twigs are used and grass is often incorporated. Well-hidden in the upper third of the canopy, tight against the trunk. Sometimes out on a lateral branch. Usually nests in small, open stands of conifers or hardwoods close to the forest edge. As nest trees, pine, spruce, and cedar are preferred. Less than 35% of nests are in hardwood trees (especially oak, maple, beech, white birch). Look for a solid black tail projecting over the rim of the nest.

Ravens are all black with a heavy beak and a rounded tail. Crows are about one-third smaller than ravens. Finer beak and square tail.


Other Nests

Great Blue Heron: Peck and James (1983) noted that heron nests are almost always in colonies of a few to many (average 49) nests; in one case a single tree had 18 nests in it. Nest trees may be alive or dead (eventually succumbing from the weight of the nests and the bird droppings which accumulate below). Both conifers and hardwoods are used for the bulky nests which are up to one metre in diameter. Colonies may be at the water's edge (lakes, ponds, marshes, or on islands) or even a few hundred metres away. A colony is very sensitive, with chicks liable to tumble out of the nests if disturbed.


Other Nests

Squirrel Leaf Nests: Bulky (35­50 cm), spherical nest made of hardwood leaves and twigs (grey squirrel) and placed high in a hardwood tree, or made of conifer foliage (red squirrel) and pressed against the trunk of a conifer. The round shape and lack of decoration signify a squirrel. These nests are used in summer, and it is thought the volatile chemicals in the leaves repel fleas and other parasites which plague squirrels. Once the foliage dries and falls off, a ball of twigs may be all that remains.

The pugnacious red squirrel.

red squirrel

grey squirrel nest


Other Nests

Black Bear Nest: Variable size, but usually LARGE (to two metres in diameter). Spherical, ragged, and very coarse-looking. A jumble. These are not true nests but are signs that bears were foraging in tree crowns. Made of twigs and branches which have been broken inward toward the centre of the tree by heavy black bears trying to obtain mast (hard or fleshy fruits such as acorns, beech nuts, cherries) from the highest, outer-most portions of the crown where these fruits are most abundant. Usually contains dry leaves. There may be several "nests" in the same or adjacent trees. Look for bear claw marks on the trunk of beech trees.

Acorns, beech nuts, and cherries are important bear foods.


Key to Stick Nests -- Key A

Key to the Stick Nests

Key A -- Key to Stick Nests and Related Structures

Note: Coarse twigs are approximately the diameter of a thumb or greater. Medium twigs are approximately the diameter of a pencil and fine twigs are smaller yet (straw size)

Collection of twigs/sticks in a living or dead tree

large, unorganized jumble (to 2 m in diameter) of twigs, branches and often leaves; high in crown of Or, Ow, Cb, Be, or Po. See pg. 62 bear nest

spherical, structured mass of leaves and fine twigs < 50 cm wide

3­8 m up in a conifer, close to the trunk; fresh or dry conifer foliage. See pg. 61 red squirrel leaf nest

10­15+ m up on a lateral branch of a hardwood tree; fresh or dry hardwood leaves and twigs. See pg. 61 grey squirrel leaf nest

highly structured with a flat top; > 50 cm wide; no leaves except as decoration on top; in a fork or apressed to the trunk Stick Nest -- go to Key B


Key to Stick Nests -- Key B

Key B -- Stick Nest in a Tree

Stick nest in a tree

a colony of nests each up to 1 m wide; live or dead tree; coarse sticks; near water. See pg. 60

not in a colony

great blue heron

very large nest 1­3 m wide

small-medium nest 30 to 150 cm wide; inside forest; live tree

broad-winged hawk red-shouldered hawk nest in or near very top of tree, esp. a broken one; live or dead tree. See pg. 52 osprey huge nest in large, living supercanopy tree; nest in lowest main fork of hardwood (esp. Po) or well within canopy of conifer. See pg. 50 red-tailed hawk goshawk Cooper's hawk sharp-shinned hawk crow bald eagle raven merlin

Go to key C (nest in hardwood tree) or key D (nest in conifer tree)


Key to Stick Nests -- Key C

Key C -- Stick Nest in a Live Hardwood Tree

Note: See Key B for eagle and osprey nests. Stick nest in a live hardwood tree

in the main fork at base of live crown, ~1/2 way up tree

in a secondary fork, well up in live crown at 2/3­3/4 height of tree

small and loose; 30­60 cm wide, 30­45 cm deep; finemedium twigs; often hardwood decoration and typically in Po, Bw, or By (not Be). See pg. 32 broad-winged hawk

helmet-shaped; of uniformly fine-medium twigs; 30­75 cm wide, 25­30 cm deep; grass may be on top; up in finer branches; near forest opening. See pg. 59

crow medium-sized, solid and earthy; 45­90 cm wide, ~50 cm deep; fine-medium twigs; often in Be, By, or Mh. See pg. 28 red-shouldered hawk Cooper's hawk big and shaggy; 45­100+ cm wide and to 100 cm deep; long, mediumcoarse twigs; often in By or Po. See pg. 36 goshawk big & bulky; 70­150 cm wide and to 120 cm deep; medium-coarse, long twigs; near a forest opening or at forest edge. See pg. 30 red-tailed hawk short, coarse twigs & sticks; 50­150 cm wide, 30­45 cm deep; often in Po and topped with hair or grass. See pg. 59 raven


medium-sized & loose like an inverted, haystack of uniform fine-medium twigs; 60­75 cm wide, 40­60 cm deep; in a heavy, solid fork. See pg. 38

Key to Stick Nests -- Key D

Key D -- Stick Nest in a Live Conifer Tree

Note: See Key B for eagle and osprey nests.

Stick nest in a live conifer tree.

nest < 75 cm wide; high up in tree (2/3 to 3/4 of the way up)

nest > 75 cm wide; low in tree (< 2/3 of the way up)

shallow platform of fine twigs at the trunk; 45­65 cm wide & 15­30 cm deep. See pg. 40 sharp-shinned hawk

coarse, short twigs & sticks with hair and grass incorporated; 50­150 cm wide & 30­45 cm deep; can be higher in canopy. See pp. 48 and 59. raven or merlin

shallow platform of medium twigs; nest seems to wrap around trunk; 60­75 cm wide and 15­20 cm deep. See pg. 38 Cooper's hawk helmet-shaped and of fine to medium twigs; grass on top. See pp. 48 and 59. crow or merlin

shaggy; long mediumcoarse sticks; 45­100 cm wide & up to 50 cm deep; near the base of the canopy. See pg. 36 goshawk bulky & close to a forest opening or the forest edge; 70­150 cm wide; medium to coarse twigs; lower in canopy. See pg. 30 red-tailed hawk




Agro, D.J., and B.J. Naylor. 1994. Effects of human disturbance on colonies of the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in Ontario. OMNR, Central Region Science and Technology Unit, Draft Technical Report No. 35. Austen, M.J., and M.D. Cadman. 1994. The status of the Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) in Ontario. OMNR, Terrestrial Ecosystems Branch, Toronto. Austen, M.J., M.D. Cadman, and R.D. James. 1994. Ontario birds at risk. Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Don Mills, and Long Point Bird Observatory, Port Rowan. Bent, A.C. 1961a. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Part 1. California condor, vultures, kites, hawks, eagles, American osprey. Dover Publications Inc., New York. Bent, A.C. 1961b. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Part 2. Hawks, falcons, caracaras, owls. Dover Publications Inc., New York. Bowman, I., and J. Siderius. 1984. Management guidelines for the protection of heronries in Ontario. Unpubl. Rept., OMNR, Wildlife Branch, Toronto. Brownell, V.R. and M.J. Oldham. 1980. Status report on the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in Canada. Unpubl. Rept., OMNR, Wildlife Branch, Toronto. Cadman, M.D., P.F.J. Eagles, and F.M. Helleiner. 1987. Atlas of the breeding birds of Ontario. University of Waterloo Press, Waterloo. Clark, W.S., and B.K. Wheeler. 1987. A field guide to hawks of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. Crocoll, S.T. 1994. Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). In The birds of North America, No. 107. A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. Dent, P. 1994. Observations on the nesting habits of red-shouldered hawks in York Region. Ontario Birds 12:85-94. Dunne, P., D. Sibley, and C. Sutton. 1988. Hawks in flight. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.



Gerrard, J.M., and G.R. Bortolotti. 1988. The bald eagle -- haunts and habits of a wilderness monarch. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. Goodrich, L., S.C. Crocoll, and S.E. Senner. 1996. Broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus). In The birds of North America, No. 218. A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologist's Union, Washington, D.C. James, R.D. 1988. Manual for the identification of hawks and owls of Ontario. Department of Ornithology, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Long Point Bird Observatory. 1994. Ontario birds at risk newsletter. 1(1):4pp.

OMNR 1987a. Peregrine falcon habitat management guidelines. Unpubl. Rept., OMNR, Wildlife Branch, Toronto. OMNR 1987b. Bald eagle habitat management guidelines. Unpubl. Rept. OMNR, Wildlife Branch, Toronto.

Meng, H.K. 1951. The Cooper's hawk Accipiter cooperii (Bonaparte). Ph.D. Thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Naylor, B.J. 1998. Habitat management considerations. In A silvicultural guide for the tolerant hardwood forest in Ontario. Queen's Printer for Ontario, Toronto. Naylor, B.J. 1994. Managing wildlife in white pine and red pine forests of central Ontario. Forestry Chronicle 70:411-419. Naylor, B.J., and K.J. Szuba. 1998. Locating red-shouldered hawk nests. pp. 141­163 In Selected wildlife and habitat features: inventory manual for use in timber management planning. W.B. Ranta. (Ed.). Queen's Printer for Ontario, Toronto. Palmer, R.S. (Ed.). 1988a. Handbook of North American birds -- diurnal raptors part 1. Vol. 4 (Family Cathartidae and Family Accipitridae). Yale University Press, New Haven. Palmer, R.S. (Ed.). 1988b. Handbook of North American birds -- diurnal raptors part 2. Vol. 5 (Family Accipitridae and Family Falconidae). Yale University Press, New Haven.



Peck, G.K., and R.D. James. 1983. Breeding birds of Ontario, nidiology and distribution -- Volume 1: nonpasserines. Life Sciences Misc. Publications, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Peck, G.K., and R.D. James. 1987. Breeding birds of Ontario, nidiology and distribution -- Volume 2: passerines. Life Sciences Misc. Publications, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Penak, B. 1983. Management guidelines and recommendations for osprey in Ontario. Unpubl. Rept., OMNR, Wildlife Branch, Toronto. Plosz, C.M. 1990. Nest site habitat selection of Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) in southern Ontario. Unpubl. Rept, OMNR, Maple District. Preston, C.R., and R.D. Beane. 1998. Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). In The birds of North America, No. 52 . A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. Rosenfield, R.N., and J. Bielefeldt. 1993. Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii). In The birds of North America, No. 75. A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. Sodhi, R.S., L.W. Oliphant, P.C. James, and I.G. Warkentin. 1993. Merlin (Falco columbarius). In The birds of North America, No. 44. A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. Squires, J.R., and R.T. Reynolds. 1997. Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). In The birds of North America, No. 298. A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. Szuba, K.J., and P. Bell. 1991. Hawk guide for Ministry of Natural Resources field personnel. OMNR, Wildlife Policy Branch, Toronto. Szuba, K.J., B.J. Naylor, and J.A. Baker. 1991. Nesting habitat of redshouldered hawks in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region of central and southeastern Ontario. OMNR, Central Ontario Forest Technology Development Unit Technical Report No. 14.


Appendix I

Appendix I

Characteristics of Red-shouldered Hawk Nests Based on data collected by OMNR staff from Algonquin Park, Bracebridge, Parry Sound, Tweed, Pembroke, North Bay, Napanee, Minden, Bancroft, and Carleton Place, and 28 nest records from southern or central Ontario contributed by the public to the ROM Nest Records Scheme between 1984 and 1994, inclusive. Species of Nest Tree: n=173 trees; beech=24.9%, maple=23.1%, yellow birch=23.1%, poplar=4.6%, white birch=12.1%, conifer=4.0%; also used were basswood, ash, butternut, black cherry, oak DBH of Nest Tree (cm): mean ± SD; n=145 records from OMNR overall 49.7 ± 11.6, range 21­100 cm with the smallest in Napanee beech 47.6 ± 7.9 maple 50.3 ± 9.0 yellow birch 51.2 ± 18.0 Height of Nest Tree (m): mean ± SD; n=118 records from OMNR overall 23.9 ± 4.3 beech 24.5 ± 4.8 maple 24.2 ± 3.0 yellow birch 23.4 ± 4.1 Location of Nest in Tree: n=115 records (including 17 of the ROM records where location was mentioned); 88% of the time in the lowest main fork; 12% in a secondary fork Mean Height of Nest in Tree (m): 13.8 ± 3.0 m (mean ± SD; n=123 from OMNR) Type of Decoration on the Rim of the Nest: (all OMNR records) conifer = 97.4% (total n=233 observations), broad-leaved < 3%; hemlock = 81.8% (total n=214 observations), balsam fir = 7.9%, cedar = 4.2%, white pine = 3.3%


Appendix II

Appendix II

Characteristics of Cooper's Hawk Nests Based on data collected by OMNR staff from Algonquin Park, Bracebridge, Parry Sound, Tweed, Pembroke, North Bay, Napanee, Minden, Bancroft, and Carleton Place, and 20 nest records contributed by the public from southern or central Ontario to the ROM Nest Records Scheme between 1984 and 1994, inclusive. Species of Nest Tree: n=37 trees (includes 19 from ROM nest records); beech=24.3%, maple=16.2%, oak=13.5%, conifer (white pine and red pine) =32.4%; also used were cedar, spruce, yellow birch, basswood DBH of Nest Tree (cm): mean ± SD; n=9 records from OMNR overall 43.3 ± 11.7 Height of Nest Tree (m): mean ± SD; n=10 records from OMNR overall 22.8 ± 4.5 (hardwood only) Location of Nest in Tree: n=14 records from OMNR ; 25% of the time in the lowest main fork; 75% in a secondary fork, well within the canopy Mean Height of Nest in Tree (m): 14.1 ± 5.1 m (mean ± SD; n=14 in hardwood from OMNR) * note that this averages the high and low nests; (see above) Type of Decoration on the Rim of the Nest: (all OMNR records) Decoration (sparse) was noted on only one nest; in 11 others it was totally absent. This excludes cases where decoration was NOT specifically recorded as present or absent. One Cooper's hawk nest was built on top of an old crow nest, and another had a squirrel nest as its foundation.


Appendix III

Appendix III

Characteristics of nests used by other raptors Note that OMNR search was concentrated in hardwood stands Broad-winged Hawk: OMNR records only d three nests in maple, two nests in yellow birch, six nests in white birch d an old Cooper's hawk nest was used in one case Sharp-shinned Hawk: two OMNR records and 10 from the ROM 1984­1994 d eight nests in spruce, two nests in balsam fir, two nests in cedar, one in white pine d height of nest in tree (m): (mean ± SD) 12.0 ± 4.0, n=10 Merlin: one OMNR record and five ROM records from 1985­1989 d two nests in white pine, one in red pine, three in spruce d in all cases where noted, the nest was near the top of the tree d ranged from 11 to 25 m up Goshawk: 15 records from OMNR d species of nest tree: four in beech, three in maple, two in poplar, and one each in yellow birch, basswood, red oak, white ash, white birch, white pine d height of nest tree (m; mean ± SD): 22.2 ± 2.8, n=6 d height of nest in tree (m; mean ± SD): 15.8 ± 2.7, n=5 d dbh of nest tree: two trees were 70 and 71 cm dbh d habitat: in five cases the nest was within about 150 m of a lake or stream




We hope this list recognizes all the dedicated and interested people from OMNR, the private sector, and the general public who enthusiastically and tirelessly found, reported, and monitored hawk nests during the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of a program to protect the redshouldered hawk. The work of these individuals lead the effort for conservation of the habitats of woodland raptors in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest of Ontario. Special thanks to Jim Baker of the OMNR whose programs have provided the inspiration and financial support for these projects, including this guide. We also thank Eric Boysen and Scott Reid of the OMNR and the staff of the LandOwner Resource Centre for enthusiastically supporting production of this guide. Mark Peck of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the ROM kindly gave us access to the Ontario Nest Records Scheme and to the raptor collection which helped greatly in evaluating the fine points of identification. Patti Bell drew the incubating hawks (page 25) for an earlier version of this guide (Szuba and Bell 1991). To all these people we extend out sincere appreciation. Amelia Ah You Jim Atack Jann Atkinson Brian Batchelor Sandra Beitz Patti Bell Karen Bellamy John Bellehumeur Dan Belli Cliff & Linda Bennett Brian Bjorkquist Ron Black Jim Boraski Jacques Bouvier Lu-Ann Bowman Eric Boysen David Bradley Chuck Brady Rocky Brooks Bart Brown Joan Brown Tom Bryson Peter Bush Mike Buss Pat Chartrand Jason Church Kerry Coleman Al Corlett Ralph Cotteril Pat Cowan Bill Crins Kelly Culkeen Dan Demos Neil Dennis H. Doige Saundra Dosser Lesley Douglas Murray Draves Dave Duego Chip Duncan Bob Dynes Vince Ewing Dave Ferguson Bud Fisher Bruce Fleck Jim Gardner Dale Garner Allan & Peter Goddard J. Gray Chris Grooms David Hamlin Rod Hanselman Karen Hartley Rick Hawkins




Tim Haxton Bart Hilhorst Kelly Holinshead Bruce Hood Ron Huizer Peter Hulsman Katherine Janoki Jack Jennings Joe Johnson Kathy Jones Peter Judge Phil Kapostins Bill & Valerie Kennett Andy & John Kerr-Wilson Chris Kerrigan Wade Knight Saskia Koning Mark Kubisz Kristy Kujala Jeff Lake Jeff Leavey John Leeder Chris Long Greg Lott Tammy Lott Kelly Lucas Christi MacDonald Cam MacKenzie Jim Mataija Randy Maurice Charlene McBurney Jan McDonnell Bill McKutcheon Shawn McLaughlin Harry McLeod Joe McNaughton Mark Milligan Howard Mills George Morgan Ken Moyneaux Howard Mullholland Steve Munro Warren Musclow Bob North Steve O'Donnell T. O'Quinn George Oram

Linda Paish Alex Pountney Lyn Pratt Jim Purves Susan Purves Norm Quinn Mary Rawlyk Jim Reed Steve Richardson Michael Runtz Warren Schaeffer Nigel Shaw Danny Shoebottom Tom Simpson Jeff Skevington Linda Sober Rob Spence Ron Sprigings A. St. Louis Mark Stabb M. Strachan Martin Streit Dan Strickland Stan Sutey Brett Thomas DeanTimson Ron Tozer Al Turner Merilyn Twiss Doug Unsworth John Van Geene Suzanne VanExan Stan Vasiliauskus Brian Vermeersch Marinus Verwey Barry Walker Rob Wallis Mike Walsh Sloan Watters Ross Whinfield Mike White Heather Whitlaw Ken & Peg Willis Wayne Wilson Mike Wilton Mark Wynfyn

Short Forms Explained

Short Forms Explained

Aw Be Bw By Cb Ce DBH He Mh Ms MMA = = = = = = = = = = = white ash American beech white birch yellow birch black cherry eastern white cedar diameter at breast height (1.3 metres above ground) eastern hemlock hard maple (sugar maple, black maple) soft maple (red maple, silver maple) modified management area around a hawk nest in which some human actvity is permited, usually subject to timing restrictions red oak white oak poplar (balsam poplar, trembling aspen, largetooth aspen) red pine eastern white pine black spruce standard deviation white spruce less than greater than metres centimetres kilometres hectares

Or Ow Po Pr Pw Sb SD Sw < > m cm km ha

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Answer Page 9, chicks in a red-shouldered hawk nest.


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Forest Raptors and Their Nests in Southern Ontario