duck key

An Information Guide to Duck Key in the Florida Keys

























DUCK KEY ONLINE NEWS - June 2008 - Is it a hawk or a turkey vulture?




At a quick glance one might believe the logo image visible on the Hawks Cay entry wall is that of a hawk especially so with the words "Hawks Cay" placed in close proximity.

The head of the bird looks a bit like that of a hawk, but what about the wings?

On a recent visit to the Duck Key's residential island, several wildlife experts with doctoral degrees in science questioned whether the image was that of a hawk and suggested the "hawk" more closely resembled a "turkey vulture ".

Did the artist who created the design do any research as to what hawks looked like or was artistic license used similarly to the way the aerial image of the island on the resort website had been doctored. See below the the altered image of Duck Key.

Harbour Island and Utility Island have been removed from the Hawks Cay website image of Duck Key. Also missing are the Tom's Harbor Islands.



Some images of Turkey Vultures appear below. Notice the length of the wings and the feathers at the wing tips. Hawks generally do not have a great wing span like that of a Turkey Vulture nor do they have similar wing features. Mature Turkey Vultures can have a 6' wing span.

Images of Turkey Vulture


An email inquiry together with the Hawks Cay "Hawk" logo was sent to HawkWatch International sponsor of the Florida Keys Raptor Migration Project.

Casey Lott of HawkWatch responded and was of the opinion that

" . . . it a very nice artistic rendition of a Turkey Vulture. Turkey Vultures pass through the Keys in the 10s of thousands each fall, and they are very conspicuous in the Middle Keys throughout the fall and winter, so it's an appropriate symbol for the region. I actually like the drawing quite a bit."

Lott provided several reasons it looks like a Turkey Vulture.

1) "The very small head, relative to the body, that looks unfeathered"

2) Primary Feathers - "The position of the "fingers", technically the primary feathers, at the tip of the wing is very reminiscent of how Turkey Vultures hold the tips of their wings (very elastic and lots of spacing between primaries)"

3) "Turkey Vultures commonly hold their wings in a "dihedral", that is, in a raised position from the body, with the "hands" raised higher than the "arms" that resembles a "V"."

Our email to Hawkwatch asked for comments or thoughts to share. The sender was identified as Duck Key Online, but part of the response received suggests the possibility that Hawkwatch thought our inquiry might have come from Hawks Cay.

It was suggested that

"If, for some reason, you don't like the association with Vultures and want to have the logo represent a hawk, I would recommend replacing this logo (using the same artist, because they are good) with an artistic rendition of an Osprey, a Peregrine Falcon, a Northern Harrier, or a Cooper's Hawk, four different species of large diurnal birds of prey that are very common in the Florida Keys during fall migration. . . . ."

Casey Lott attached to the email a 2006 paper written for a scientific journal about raptor migration through the Keys.

"Between 1999 and 2004, HawkWatch International (HWI) conducted standardized daily counts of migrant raptors from 15 September to 13 November at Curry Hammock State Park in the middle Keys. Average annual counts for the eight most common species were: Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus; 3893); Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus; 3300); American Kestrel (Falco sparverius; 2800); Peregrine Falcon (F. peregrinus; 1908); Osprey (Pandion haliaetus; 1171); Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus; 568); Merlin (F. columbarius; 554); and Cooper's Hawk (A. cooperii; 545)."


Below is a map showing the location of Curry Hammock hawkwatch in the middle Florida Keys. Also shown is an enlargement of the Middle Keys with the color blue added to identify the location of Duck Key.


Local residents knows that Turkey Vultures can be plentiful during certain fall and winter months. Counts for turkey vultures in the hawkwatch study were discontinued after the year 2000. Observers counted 11,932 southbound Turkey Vultures in 2000, the only year when this species was counted during their peak migration into the Florida Keys.



Most Duck Key residents probably would not recommend the resort associate itself with Turkey Vultures. While Hawks are raptors or birds of prey that hunt for food primarily on the wing, and though hawks utilize their talons and beaks for tearing and/or piercing the flesh of their prey the term Hawks Cay Resort seems more "palatible" and inviting than thought of staying at Turkey Vulture Cay.

Turkey Vultures are carrion-eating and that just does not seem to fit the bill if you are a hotelier and are trying to attract vacationers to your resort. The tought of vacationing at a resort named after carrion-eating Turkey Vultures most likely would put a damper on making reservations. Hawks Cay sounds much nicer. And although hawks utilize their talons and beaks to eat, so does the Bald Eagle which is a symbol of our country. Ben Franklin thought the national bird ought to be a turkey and wished the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as an emblem of our country. Not because the Bald Eagle was a raptor, but because the Eagle appeared lazy and took its food from other birds. For Franklin the Bald Eagle was

. . . a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly.

"For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."



I think after the new logo was put in place resort personnel became aware that the image looked like that of a turkey vulture, but decided to stick with the logo since the entrance also identified the resort as Hawks Cay and turkey vultures are common to the area.

Would you stay at a resort that went by the name of "Turkey Vulture Cay"? Probably not! So though the logo seems to represent a Turkey Vulture image, one can be fairly certain the resort owners will keep the name of "Hawks Cay" and not change the name to "Turkey Vulture Cay".

It is fun to fanticize though. Some possibilities below:

turkey vulture cay


In fairness, the new owners of Hawks Cay have done a masterful job of rebuilding the resort. The hotel which started out as Indies House in 1960 had undergone major renovation in 1984 but nothing like what the Behringer Harvard/Northview Hotel Group undertook. The renovation involved gutting the hotel floor by floor and installing all new walls, new electrical, air conditioning and heating, new plumbing, all new wiring, sewage piping, conduit, granite and tile.

Did you know that portions of the old hotel had no heat? Yes, in years past some rooms would be provided with space heaters during cold spells.

Resort owners spent approximately $40,000,000 on renovations giving the hotel an upscale contemporary look. With construction complete and noisy machinery gone, the resort will now be able to concentrate on quality service.



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