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Catherinefm

A mysterious group of four raptors

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I live on a small lake, where we regularly see adult and juvenile bald eagles and, somewhat less often, ospreys -- but always before, one at a time.  This morning my husband and I caught a quick glimpse of a very unusual sight -- four large birds, raptors of some kind, flying in a line.  They were four abreast, close together, not very high, with a fifth smaller bird slightly behind.  We think the smaller bird was probably a crow harassing the larger birds, but the glimpse was so brief that we aren't sure.  They were flying very purposefully, straight across the lake toward our house and then disappeared as they flew over us.  They were definitely not geese -- no long necks and heavy bodies.  They had the silhouette of raptors, but I have never seen raptors in a group before.  I'm not asking for a specific i.d. because we didn't see anywhere near enough detail, but I would love to hear thoughts on what they could possibly have been.  Vultures are the obvious answer, but they really did not look like vultures (which we often see, though never before directly over the water).  Their wings were too broad and flat for vultures and their wing beats were slow, heavy and regular, with none of the soaring or dancing around on the wind that you see with vultures  -- and anyway, I've never seen four vultures flying straight ahead in a line like that, either!  Any thoughts?  Would eagles or ospreys ever fly together in a formation of four?  Could the explanation for the unusual grouping possibly be that it was a family -- two adults, two juveniles -- being harassed away by the crow?  

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Posted (edited)

Welcome to whatbird!

A few weeks ago I saw three Turkey Vultures flying strait across water. (Slow and regular wing beats.) Being tailed by a Mississippi Kite.

1 hour ago, Catherinefm said:

Their wings were too broad and flat for vultures

Hopefully some one else have some input.🙂

Edit where are you located?

Edited by Kevin

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Look into cormorants, species would depend on your location. I regularly see double crested cormorants flying in the way you describe

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2 hours ago, Kevin said:

Welcome to whatbird!

A few weeks ago I saw three Turkey Vultures flying strait across water. (Slow and regular wing beats.) Being tailed by a Mississippi Kite.

Hopefully some one else have some input.🙂

Edit where are you located?

Sorry -- my location is Central New York. 

Thanks for the vulture info! Maybe I was too quick to rule them out. I've never seen a vulture being chased, so that might be why I didn't recognize the flight behavior.

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1 hour ago, Skull Guy said:

Look into cormorants, species would depend on your location. I regularly see double crested cormorants flying in the way you describe

Aha, that's an interesting possibility. We often see groups of double-crested cormorants here. I didn't think the necks were as long as a cormorant's, but we saw them so briefly that I can't be sure. Thanks!

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