It may still feel like summer to us, but September is the beginning of fall migration for birds, and raptors are already moving back into our area. Binocular vision, heavy curved beaks, and strong talons make these impressive birds extremely efficient at finding and capturing prey. Although we have a few resident species of diurnal raptors (i.e., raptors that are not nocturnal), many more species overwinter here after returning from their breeding grounds to the north. Keep an eye out for these species that are common in the League City area!
Red-tailed Hawks are large buteos with rounded wings and fanned tails, usually seen soaring overhead or perched on top of utility poles. The rust-colored tail that gives this species its name is easy to see in adult plumage; juvenile plumage varies greatly however, with light barring on the wings and tail instead. One consistent field mark to look for is the light-colored “V” shape on the back formed by pale feather edgings.
Our breeding population of Red-shouldered Hawks is replaced in fall and winter by migrants to our area. These medium-sized buteos also have rounded wings and fanned tails in flight, but are more likely to perch on high lines than on top of utility poles. Adults have bold black-and-white barring on the wings and tails, replaced by barring in shades of brown in juveniles. All ages are very vocal, giving their distinctive two-note call often in flight or while perched.
Ospreys may be seen fishing for prey in both fresh and salt water. With rounded wings and striking dark brown and white plumage, they are often seen hovering above water before plunging down to snatch fish with their talons. In flight, they carry their catch in the most aerodynamic position, headfirst, landing on a nearby pole or post to eat it.
American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in North America, about the size of Mourning Doves. Although males are more colorful than females, with blue-gray coloring on their heads and wings, both have two vertical black stripes on the face and heavily barred rusty plumage. Watch for them perched on high lines and hovering in mid-air as they hunt small rodents and other prey.