DEC 20: Immature Eagle and Short-tailed Hawk overhead

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DEC 20: Immature Eagle and Short-tailed Hawk overhead

Phil checked the nest this morning (December 20) at around 10:00 AM and reported... "there was one adult, down low in the nest (you can see a part of the beak just above my watermark). I only stayed for a few minutes  no other activity was observed."  

Phil's photo:

I arrived at about 10:30 AM and found no adults. I assume one was incubating in the nest. I was about to leave at 11:05 AM when an immature Bald Eagle appeared overhead, flying rather high up. It moved to the south and then came back at a somewhat lower altitude and I obtained a few poor photos due to the distance and overcast sky. It appears to be sub-adult in late third year plumage, evidenced by mostly dark body and wings, considerable white on head and tail with "osprey line" streak through its eyes, and rather bright yellow bill and light eyes. Early third year eagles usually show much more white on their bodies and wing linings. The plumage stages can be variable, as eagles take 3-4 years to develop full adult plumage.Very likely a local offspring, probably hatched almost three years ago (if in January, 2017 it would be entering its fourth year of life next month). The nest occupants did not vocalize as sometimes happens, often ending in a chase,  when another eagle enters its territory.

A hawk was flying just beneath the eagle when it came back from the south. It was very dark, almost black, so I suspected it was a Short-tailed Hawk. This species breeds in northern Florida and spends winters here. It often flies with vultures, which it slightly resembles and probably does this to allow it to surprise its prey, which is almost exclusively smaller birds. I confirmed the identification on the computer screen back home. The plumage of this species may be either light or dark, bu not in between. It has a prominent yellow cere (the lump at base of bill in front of eyes) which stands out against the black plumage, visible in the first photo below).

Short-tailed Hawk, dark morph: