What Bird Did I See?
August 22, 2012 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Need help identifying a bird I saw today. I was driving along Jordan Lake, near Chapel Hill, NC. A large bird flying over the lake folded its wings in slightly, and glided down, in a slight partial spiral, to the lake surface and grabbed a fish. I'd guess I was about 200 feet away. I've seen eagles and osprey at the lake. This bird was that size, with a very large wingspan. Coloring: Appeared black; may have been dark brown. Markings: White on the trailing underside of the wings, at least one-half the width of the wing, beginning at the body and continuing approx. 80 percent of the way to the wing tip. I didn't notice any other markings.
posted by justcorbly to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What made you think that this wasn't an osprey or eagle? How was it different from the osprey and eagles that you've seen there before? Could it have been a juvenile bald eagle? That describes the fishing behavior of eagles more than osprey.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:12 AM on August 22, 2012

It could easily have been an osprey or eagle, including an immature bald eagle. The lake has a number of bald eagle nests. I was just trying to indicate the bird's size.

I've been looking around for photos that show the same white pattern under the wings.
posted by justcorbly at 11:16 AM on August 22, 2012

Thanks for the pic, gingerbeer. Any chance an immature bald eagle would have the wing markings I saw?
posted by justcorbly at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2012

A black-hawk, maybe?
posted by Flood at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2012

I didn't notice white marking on the tail, and that black hawk pic doesn't show the wing markings I saw. Dunno, either, if black hawks frequent this part of North Carolina.
posted by justcorbly at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012

It sounds like you're describing a Cormorant. They will dive for fish. More on them here.
posted by jquinby at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2012

Lots of cormorants at the lake; might well have been what I saw. The bird didn't dive or swoop to the lake surface so much as it it allowed itself to drop vertically, then just above the surface it extended its wings, grabbed the fish in its beak, and flew away.
posted by justcorbly at 11:27 AM on August 22, 2012

Only an osprey has what could be described as a white trailing edge to the wing, of the large fishing raptors.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2012

Ah -- fish in its beak! An important detail. Not an eagle or an osprey -- they will both grab with talons. A cormorant or other non-raptor is much more likely then.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd think cormorant too. Or possibly anhinga if they're around there.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:39 AM on August 22, 2012

I've seen bald eagles there before, but that doesn't sound like a bald eagle.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:34 PM on August 22, 2012

I'm going with cormorant, then.
posted by justcorbly at 2:05 PM on August 22, 2012

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