Auditory performance in bald eagles and red-tailed hawks: a comparative study of hearing in diurnal raptors

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2019 Dec;205(6):793-811. doi: 10.1007/s00359-019-01367-9. Epub 2019 Sep 13.


Collision with wind turbines is a conservation concern for eagles with population abundance implications. The development of acoustic alerting technologies to deter eagles from entering hazardous air spaces is a potentially significant mitigation strategy to diminish associated morbidity and mortality risks. As a prelude to the engineering of deterrence technologies, auditory function was assessed in bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), as well as in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) to a comprehensive battery of clicks and tone bursts varying in level and frequency were acquired to evaluate response thresholds, as well as suprathreshold response characteristics of wave I of the ABR, which represents the compound potential of the VIII cranial nerve. Sensitivity curves exhibited an asymmetric convex shape similar to those of other avian species, response latencies decreased exponentially with increasing stimulus level and response amplitudes grew with level in an orderly manner. Both species were responsive to a frequency band at least four octaves wide, with a most sensitive frequency of 2 kHz, and a high-frequency limit of approximately 5.7 kHz in bald eagles and 8 kHz in red-tailed hawks. Findings reported here provide a framework within which acoustic alerting signals might be developed.

Keywords: Auditory brainstem response; Eagles; Evoked potentials; Hawks; Hearing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eagles / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Hawks / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*