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Hawks and Eagles at NC's Alligator River NWR


I just returned from another weekend on the Outer Banks.  The Sunday pelagic
was eventful but no Alabatross.  Brian Patteson will have a report of the
birds out soon.

About ten or more birders visited Alligator River NWR (mainland Dare County,
NC) on Saturday afternoon.  The open fields continue to be an outstanding
place to observe raptors.  I arrived there about 2:30 pm.  Others there had
already spotted an adult Bald Eagle.  Within minutes an immature Bald Eagle
came soaring by, and then another eagle came into view.  The other eagle
turned out to be a subadult Golden Eagle (2nd or 3rd year).  A month ago,
January 16th, several of us saw an immature Golden Eagle at the same
location.  The new bird, February 19th, is a different Golden Eagle.  It had
no white at the base of the primaries, and the white area at the base of the
tail was much more restricted.  The tail also showed some barring.  The tail
was well exposed when this eagle flaired out just before landing on the

Other raptors of interest were the Rough-legged Hawks.  There are apparently
two different individuals being seen.  The one which has been seen most
often is on the light end of "light phase".  The other bird, which has been
seen more recently, and seen again Saturday, is considerably darker
underneath.  A simple description might be "middle phase".

Many Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks are also to be found, as well as
Kestrels and the occasional accipiter.

If you wish to visit this area, plan to stay for several hours.  Although
there are numerous raptors in the area, they will not all be visible at
once.  The buteos and eagles may spend much time perched somewhere out of
sight.  The Rough-legged Hawks apparently stay in the area of the big fields
all the time, and are fairly reliable if you give yourself enough time.
However, the Golden Eagles may cover very large areas, and are not at all

John Wright
Greenville, NC