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Birds of Prey

Another "National Geographic" Moment
While sitting in the back yard reading one afternoon my husband and I heard a big ruckus overhead. We looked up to see a red tailed hawk trying to grab a Blue Jay mid air. Moments later, the hawk got hold of him and they both tumbled to the ground about 6 feet from where we were sitting. Like I said... another National Geographic Moment!

Predators don't all come on four legs. 
Overhead you have a variety of birds that are also predators. Obviously you are not a target for predatory birds, but kittens, small puppies, baby ducks or chickens, and other small pets can be. These birds are easily strong enough to pick up any small creature, and they will if you leave them vulnerable.  
Birds by Species  menu

Red Tail Hawk

The Red-tail is the largest hawk, usually weighing between 2 and 4 pounds. As with most raptors, the female is nearly 1/3 larger than the male and may have a wing span of 56 inches. This species shows a great deal of individual variation in plumage.

The adult has a rufous-colored tail that may or may not have a black terminal bar. Adults are dark brown on the back and the top of their wings. The underside of the bird is usually light with a dark belly band, and a cinnamon wash on the neck and chest. . Immatures resemble the adults except their tail is brown with dark bars; the red- tail molts in during its second year.

The adult Red-tailed Hawk is easily identified, for when it leaves its perch on slow, measured wing beats, or turns while soaring overhead, the broad, rounded tail shows a rich, russet red, hence the name. Within its range, its frequent soaring and loud voice are a good pointer.
Details: Desert USA

Any small or young pet must be protected day and night from predatory birds. Eagles & hawks will typically hunt by day, but owls are night hunters who join in with other four legged predators looking for anything small, and the easier the better!

The dense area in the upper portion of the image to the right of the tree is a red tail hawk nest. The dense area on the other side is just mistletoe, but it does a good job of camouflaging the nest.

They don't know the difference between your pet ducks or little chicks and the wild ducks and birds they normally feed on. They will pick one up and be gone in seconds. 

The three predatory birds shown here are very common in California. You may have others where you live, or different varieties of these predatory birds in your area that look a little bit different. It's a good idea to either get a bird book for your area, or check with your local wildlife agency to find out more about the predatory birds and animals in your area.

Keep me wild!

California Department of Fish & Game "Biodiversity Atlas"

Northern Harrier (Marsh) Hawk
Circus cyaneus

The Northern Harrier Hawk, also known as the Marsh Hawk, is my favorite hawk species. Harriers get their name from their hunting method of flying low over the surface of fields in measured patterns. They will pounce upon rodents, frogs, lizards, and snakes. Small birds which make the mistake of flying at a Harrier's approach will be taken by the hawk flipping upside down in flight and impaling the bird's soft belly.

Harriers are among our larger native species. They have long wings and tail. A large white rump and white ring around their faces are identifying features which can be easily observed in flight. Males are gray above and females are brown above. Breeding occurs in the more northern states and Canada.

Northern Harrier Hawks nest on the ground in grass and shrubby vegetation. There are usually 4 to 7 eggs.

The young leave the nest at 42 days of age.

Owl Detail  


California Fish & Game -- Specific Pages of Interest
Reptiles by Species
Mammals by Species
Birds by Species


All photos on this site are copyrighted. Many are available to purchase, however, at


2008 - Jody & Ric Hornor l contact