2007-04-12 / Front Page

Group seeks out E.B.'s breeding hawks, owls

BY VINCENT TODARO Staff Writer

BY VINCENT TODARO
Staff Writer

PHOTOSBYJEFF GRANIT staff
Above: A red-tailed hawk takes off from a tree in a neighborhood near East Brunswick High School last week. The breeding bird is among the initial findings in the township's first annual Raptor Survey. At left: An owl sits in his nest high above a tree in the woods off Dunhams Corner Road.PHOTOSBYJEFF GRANIT staff Above: A red-tailed hawk takes off from a tree in a neighborhood near East Brunswick High School last week. The breeding bird is among the initial findings in the township's first annual Raptor Survey. At left: An owl sits in his nest high above a tree in the woods off Dunhams Corner Road. EAST BRUNSWICK - Can't sleep? Back pain? Tossing and turning? Try sleeping in the hole of a tree like a screech owl.

Such raptors and their nesting places around town are the subject of the latest initiative from the Environmental Commission, which is seeking residents' help in the township's inaugural Raptor Survey. In just a few weeks, participants have located seven pairs of red-haired hawks and two pairs of great horned owls nesting within the township, according to commission member David Moskowitz.

"It's not surprising to find either species, but I am surprised to see how close the hawk nests are to each other," he said. "They usually have a fairly large home range because they need a fairly large habitat."

For instance, two pairs were within 2,000 feet of each other, he said.

"I think it speaks to the abundance of prey," he said. "There are a lot of food sources in that area of the township. There are large trees to support a number of animals, so they have a really good food source."

Four of the owl pairs are in residential areas, as is one of the hawk pairs.

This time of year is best to take inventory of the raptors, he said, because it is an active nesting season, and the leafless trees make it easier to see the large stick nests.

Moskowitz expects to find more owls and hawks.

"I really do think this is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "We just began our survey and are getting input. I am surprised at how many we found in such a short amount of time."

The commission is also looking closely at what it has found.

"One of the hawk pairs appears to have built, or at least replaced, three nests, and seems to have finally settled on its favorite, a nest that it used last year and successfully raised two young hawks from," Moskowitz said.

Next year, other hawks or owls may use the unused nests, he noted.

The commission plans to use another means of surveying owls by playing tapes of real owl calls at night to draw out species such as screech owls and barred owls. The same method will be used to attract Cooper's hawks.

"It's a common survey methodology," Moskowitz said. "It's a way of drawing them out."

Except for the barred owls, all of the species can be found in backyards, he said. In fact, the American kestrel hawk and screech owl both nest in cavities such as tree holes.

Anyone with sightings of hawks or owls should send the observations and any photos to the commission's Web site, www.njnaturenotes.com.

The commission will present a field guide on birds to a randomly selected person who submits information that leads to the discovery of a hawk or owl nest.

Return to top