PAWS Magazine

Issue 69, Spring 2008

Ask RileyRiley Raccoon

Calling all kids!
If you have a question about animals or how you can help them, e-mail your question to Riley Raccoon at You can find more fun ways to help animals, online at

Dear Riley,
I've noticed hawks flying in big circles in the sky when I'm riding in the car with my family. Why do they do that?
From Alex, age 9

Hi Alex,
I'm so glad to hear you are noticing the animals in your community! These hawks are actually using invisible currents of warm air, called thermals, to help them get higher up in the sky. These warm air currents rise up from patches of earth that absorb heat from the sun.

Solitary birds, such as eagles and hawks, often glide on these thermals to use less energy and extend their flight time as they search for food. Social birds, such as vultures, who fly in large flocks also use thermals to gain altitude and extend their range during migration. Large groups of birds riding a thermal have been said to resemble the water boiling in a kettle, so sometimes a flock of birds circling in a thermal is called a kettle.
Happy bird watching, Riley Raccoon

Do you have a question for Riley? Send him your question and he will try to answer it in PAWS' Kids Helping Animals Newsletter. You can e-mail him at!


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