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Eyes to the Sky

Posted Monday, June 19, 2017

“Hawk or vulture?”

I was paddling the lazy Housatonic with an experienced naturalist in the stern. I looked back over my shoulder. He grinned at me.

“We have a joke about that, Tad,” he said. “If anyone has to ask, tell them it’s a hawk. They’ll never know, and hawks are so much more appealing.” He glanced at the sky. “Vulture.”

So how did he know?

Here are a couple of layman’s tips: The end of a hawk’s wings look rounded and smooth. A vulture has finger-like feathers at its wing tips.

Slightly more subtly, look at the flying pattern. Vultures tend to soar in circles, flapping their wings only occasionally. Hawks soar too, but with a choppier, more frequent flapping pattern.

As a birdwatcher from North Carolina going by the handle of “nurse_turtle” says:

  • Vulture = soar soar soar soar flap soar soar soar soar soar flap …
  • Hawk = soar flap soar flap flap soar flap soar flap flap soar …

Putting aside our waggish naturalist’s jokes, going on a guided bird walk is fun, and beginners are welcome. The Hoffman Bird Club leads frequent field trips​​​​​​​, often in collaboration with Mass Audubon, The Trustees and BNRC.