This week two raptors are featured — one nocturnal, the great horned owl and one diurnal, the bald eagle.
The HP’s own Dave Mull sent me photos of a great horned owl, probably a young bird that hatched in early 2019, found entangled in netting placed over he and his wife Kathy’s chicken coop in Almena Township.
Dave Mull said: “The owl was tangled in the netting that covers our chicken coop. I cut him free with game shears and he eventually ended up perched atop this pipe on our barn. I couldn’t get him to agree to only eat our roosters and leave our chickens alone, however.”
This great horned owl very likely was still being fed by its parents, and perhaps was only learning to catch its own food. Young great horned owls stay near their parents from the time they hatch in early spring until November, when they go off in search of territory to call their own.
Great horned owls are one of the most widely distributed native birds in the Western Hemisphere, ranging from the tree line in Canada all the way to the southernmost tip of South America.
The great horned owl is a year-round resident over its range and does not migrate. It eats small rodents, birds, reptiles and mammals as large as skunks.
Brad Anderson of Bridgman found at least two bald eagles in Warren Dunes State Park in recent days, one of which was photographed and is featured today.
The bald eagle can be found sparingly all year long in Southwest Michigan, although it is probable that no individual eagles stay here all year. The eagles that can be found nesting along the St. Joseph River in summer likely migrate southward, possibly to the Ohio River, for winter. Bald eagles found here in winter most likely have nested in Canada and northern Michigan.
During October and November, many bald eagles pass through Southwest Michigan on their way south. The migration period runs from late September through about Thanksgiving. While most bald eagles only pass through during spring and fall, a few stay the entire winter. During the coldest part of the winter season, bald eagles will patrol the skies over the St. Joseph River looking for patches of open water.
A handful of bald eagle nests have been confirmed along the St. Joseph and Paw Paw Rivers since 2018, marking the return to of our national bird as a breeding species to Berrien County for the first time since 1870.
White-crowned sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and dark-eyed juncos are turning up at area bird feeders. Dark-eyed juncos are members of the sparrow family and become one of the most numerous songbirds at feeders in Southwest Michigan from October to April. During the summer months they nest to our north.
Most white-crowned sparrows and white-throated sparrows will migrate to points south, but a few will remain here throughout the winter.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at email@example.com.