Over the past few weeks of watching the hawks in the Franklin Institute/Parkway/Art Museum area, I have picked up various feathers that I figured might be hawk heathers dropped either from preening or in flight. I took pictures of the feathers and sent the images to John Blakeman. It turned out that three of these feathers were indeed from red-tailed hawks. The others turned out to be turkey feathers (I wonder where they hang out downtown?!)
John sent back some fascinating commentary on the feathers that included the disquieting information that I had been breaking state and federal laws when I picked up these feathers:
-- John Blakeman
Since learning this dire information, any further feathers we found stayed right there and were photographed in situ! John later relieved my guilt somewhat about the feathers I had taken home to photograph:
"You aren't the only person unaware of the protected status of most bird feathers. You might want to post the photos and my note on the matter. The Feds would take no offense. Taking photographs of the feathers is not illegal. Putting them in your pocket and taking them home would be. Actually, the wildlife authorities would welcome this public education effort helping to spread the word on the matter."
3A – This is a left-wing secondary from a haggard. It grew just inside of the “elbow.” It was dropped during the molt, which is now continuing.
This one is a bit tougher to parse out. It's a red-tail feather, for sure. But I can't tell if it's from an adult (most likely), or did it drop off the one-year old interloper? Some of these brown feathers are almost identical in eyasses and haggards. Most likely, it's from one of the resident haggards. It's certainly not from any of the eyasses, as they aren't molting in their first summer. They will be doing that next summer. The feather looks to be a larger covert, a covering feather, from the top of the wing, probably over the first or inner wing segment.
Our next exciting discovery was actually seeing an eyass eject a casting (hawk version of a hairball). The hawk was perched on a lamp pole along Spring Garden Street behind the Art Museum.
The casting fell to the sidewalk beneath the lamp pole. It is about 2" long and is definitely a candidate for the Gross Hall of Fame. I scraped it carefully into a paper cup and it is now sitting in a dry spot in my basement.
If you want to learn more about castings, check out the blog entry of July 10 entitled "Look what the hawks left on the roof!" It includes another graphic image of a casting!
John Blakeman comments that the casting "must have fallen from some distance as it fell apart on impact. You are allowed to possess these." [Phew!]
"A field biologist at The Franklin Institute (or elsewhere) could put it under a dissecting microscope and discern its composition. With a hand lens or magnifying glass you can determine if it's feathers or fur. A good lab ornithologist or mammalogist can figure the consumed animals. Pigeon feathers are pretty easy to ID. Others can be difficult. Separating the fur of the various mammals should be done by someone who is experienced."