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Table of Contents >>  6.9 Deer Wintering Areas << 6.10 Woodland Raptor Nest Sites >> 6.11 Bald Eagle Winter Roosts



Suitable nest sites are limited for woodland-nesting raptors. These birds can be sensitive to human disturbance and habitat changes in the vicinity of nests. Continued existence of these birds depends on an adequate supply of potential nest trees.

Accipiters (sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, and northern goshawk) build large stick nests on large branch fans of white pines next to the tree bole, and in multipronged “basket” forks (where three or more large branches meet) of mature hardwoods at different canopy heights. They often reuse the same nest in successive years, or build a new nest in another nearby tree. Goshawks build nests in the base of the canopy often in areas with prior goshawk nesting. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks tend to build their nests higher in the canopy. Sharp-shinned hawks tend to nest in younger, dense forest stands; Cooper’s hawks nest in more open forests. Goshawks nest in more mature forests in or near large white pines.

Buteos such as red-tailed, red-shouldered, and broad-winged hawks build large stick nests in “basket” forks of mature hardwoods and on large branch fans of white pines that are often near the edges of open, nonforest areas such as upland openings, marshes, beaver ponds and old woods roads. Red-shouldered hawks nest in mature woodlands near water or wetlands.

Ospreys nest on dead or dead-topped trees, most often in white pines but occasionally in other tall softwoods. Osprey often nest near large lakes, wetlands or stream riparian zones, but may occasionally nest in upland settings some distance from open water.

Bald eagles usually nest within half a mile of water along shorelines of large lakes and estuaries in large white pines or hardwoods. Both osprey and bald eagle nests are typically used for years or even decades, with pairs adding new nesting material each year.

Cavity-nesting owls (barred, long-eared, saw-whet, and screech) use a range of sizes of cavity trees in forested and riparian areas. Great horned owls commonly occupy large stick nests built by red-tailed hawks, crows, ravens, herons, and squirrels. Barred and long-eared owls may also use stick nests.

Excessive human activity near raptor nests in the early weeks of the breeding season may cause a pair to abandon the site; or if later in the nesting cycle, may cause an incubating or brooding female to flush from the nest, leaving eggs or nestlings vulnerable to fatal chilling or predation.


Manage for suitable nest trees and potential replacement nest trees for woodland-nesting raptors and avoid disturbance of nesting pairs during the breeding season.




2.2 Forest Structure; 4.2 Wetlands; 4.3 Forest Management in Riparian Areas; 6.2 Cavity Trees, Dens and Snags; 6.13 Wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need.


Elliott, C.A. 1988. A Forester's Guide to Managing Wildlife Habitats in Maine. University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Orono, Maine.

USDI Fish and Wildlife Service. 2007. National bald eagle management guidelines. http://www.fws.gov/pacific/eagle/NationalBaldEagleManagementGuidelines.pdf Accessed February 23, 2010.

6.9 Deer Wintering Areas << 6.10 Woodland Raptor Nest Sites >> 6.11 Bald Eagle Winter Roosts

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