Hawks and Eagles
In raptors like hawks, eagles, and owls, the female is bigger than the male. Raptors grab prey with their feet. The word "raptor" comes from a Latin word meaning "to seize." If you want to see a wide variety of raptors, go to open country--especially in eastern Orange County. Other open areas to see raptors are large parks or wildlife areas like Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Upper Newport Bay, Huntington Central Park, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. On the latter, note that Huntington Central Park and Bolsa Chica are actually connected by open space which includes oil fields not currently open to the public. However, the birds--especially raptors--treat any area like this as one large, open area and move readily between any similar habitats. So even though a park may be small or moderate size, it depends on the larger area around it as to what raptors it may attract.
Mature Bald Eagle in Prentice Park Zoo
Though Bald Eagles are rare, they have appeared regularly during fall and winter in Orange County in areas with open space, rivers, and lakes with fish. There have been occasional sightings at other times of the year. As you might expect, Bald Eagles are usually spotted near lakes and rivers. Bald Eagles have been seen in areas such as Irvine Regional Park, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Seal Beach at the Wildlife Refuge on the marine base, the old El Toro Marine Base now the Great Park, Irvine Lake, and other areas near or on the way to rivers or large lakes. Although they nest in many counties around Orange County such as San Bernardino, Ventura, San Diego, and Riverside counties, there have been no recent nesting records actually in Orange County.
Orange County Zoo in Irvine Regional Park.
Mature Red-tailed Hawk with prey at Mile Square Regional Park.
Red-tailed Hawks have many morphs. The Red-tails here are the most common Orange County variations. For other morphs check my post Red-tailed Hawk Morphs.
Note that Harris's Hawks travel in pairs or groups, and often hunt together. National Geographic calls them "the wolf pack of the air."
Harris's Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Tony Hisgett.
Check out this great video about Harris's Hawks by National Geographic Kid site http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/kids/animals-pets-kids/birds-kids/hawk-harris-kids/
And this one by National Geographic as well.
Zone-tailed hawk courtesy of US FWS. Gary M. Stolz photographer. Uncommon, but regular sightings in open areas and over regional parks.
Zone-tailed Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Dominic Sherony.
Zone-tailed Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Dominic Sherony.
Uncommon, but regular sightings in open areas and over parks.
Swainson's Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Megan McCarty.
Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo courtesy of US FWS. Photographer not listed.
Same Hawk, spotted wings showing. The thick stripes on the wings show up as spots when the wings are folded.
Stuffed Red-shouldered Hawk at Irvine Regional Park Nature Center shows stripes in partially extended wings.
Red-shouldered Hawks, though Buteos, are hawks of the forest and oak woodlands. They are also one of the noisiest hawks we have. I usually hear them before I see them. They are reddish brown with a thickly striped black and white tail and wings. With wings folded as they perch, they have rusty shoulders and spotted wings. You can see them in parks with lots of trees like O'Neil Regional Park, Irvine Regional Park, Huntington Central Park, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, and others.
Sometimes called the "fish hawk," Osprey live almost exclusively on fish, but do on rare occasions eat smaller birds, lizards, or amphibians. Very common in Orange County. Even stocked ponds and small lakes in Orange County city parks get a bit of attention from Osprey. Several nesting pairs in Orange County.
One of two nesting Osprey at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.
I took this picture at Mile Square Regional Park. Notice that there is a bend in the wrist of the wing. This is a good field mark for identifying Osprey.
Northern Harrier female. Wikicommons. Photographer Len Blumin.
Male Northern Harrier flying low over the wetlands at Upper Newport Bay.
Male Northern Harrier flying above Fairview Park in Costa Mesa.
Male Northern Harrier courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer unknown. From National Park Service.
Juvenile Northern Harrier courtesy of Wikicommons. From the California Park Service.
Northern Harrier female. The white at the base of the tail is an easy field mark to spot in either male or female. Courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Dan Pancamo.
Photo courtesy of US FWS. Photographer Bill Buchanan.
Colors really showing on a male American Kestrel . Photo courtesy of US FWS. Photographer unknown.
Adult Cooper's Hawk seated in the trees above the ducks and coots at Huntington Central Park near the old Alice's Breakfast in the Park. He was selecting his or her own breakfast.
Mother Cooper's Hawk watching over her rather partly downy covered fledglings. The smaller Dad was not far away.
Cooper's Hawk finishing off an oriole at Morongo.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk by the Huntington Central Park Library garden. Notice the rounded, long barred tail and the wide white tip at the end.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk snapped by me in the fenced garden behind the Huntington Central Park. Notice the eyes have not yet turned red like the adult Cooper's Hawk.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk courtesy of US FWS no photographer listed.
To tell the difference between Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks, check out this excellent link from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's FeederWatch pages Identifying Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Uncommon. Very similar to a Cooper's Hawk, but smaller. However, the male Cooper's Hawk and the female Sharp-Shinned may be a bit closer in size. The Sharp-shinned has very skinny, frail-looking legs compared to the more substantial legs of the Cooper's Hawk. The Sharpie's tail has square corners and a thin white tip while the Cooper's has round corners and a thick white tip. To tell the difference between Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks, check out this excellent link from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's FeederWatch pages Identifying Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Sharp-shinned Hawk courtesy of US FWS. Donna Dewhurst Photographer.
Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Steve Bernardi, Photographer.
Sharp-shinned Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. H. Petruschke, Photographer.
Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk courtesy of Wikicommons. Kevin Cole, Photographer.
Northern Goshawk courtesty of Wikicommons. Photographer Norbert Kenntner.
Juvenile Northern Goshawk courtesty of Wikicommons. Source listed as Thermos.
Compare with the immature Golden Eagle which shows patches of white further back on the wing and away from the body. The white tail has a terminal black band. Notice also the difference in the color, shape and size of the head. Photo courtesy of US FWS. Photographer Donna Dewhurst.
Turkey Vulture in flight. Note the extremely small head. The primaries and secondaries of a Turkey Vulture's wing are grayish white. The tail is dark. Photo courtesy of Wikicommons. Photographer Dori. Altered by Snowman Radio.
Please note that the Golden Eagle is smaller and has a large, dark head, and a white tail with a terminal black band. The Bald Eagle is also smaller, and has a larger white head and a white tail. The smaller Turkey Vulture is dark with a smaller black or red head and two-toned wings seen from below--not patches. The trailing half of a Turkey Vulture's wing is grayish white as opposed to the California Condor's clean, white patch in the leading area of the wing near the body. So pay attention to color and where on the wing the light color is and size. Also note that the California Condor is much larger than the Turkey Vulture. The California Condor's wingspan is about 9.8 feet as compared to the smaller wingspan of the Turkey Vulture which is 5-6 feet.
A California Condor will look huge and almost certainly will be tagged because they are endangered and very closely monitored. However, remember a large vulture with a tag could also be a Turkey Vulture. Turkey Vulture populations are being monitored by tagging them as well. So that should not be a deciding factor. A tagged vulture could be either, but an untagged California Condor should be carefully observed, and the details noted to verify your sighting because an untagged condor would be extremely unlikely. Take pictures of any California Condor sighting if you can. Make notations as to the location and time. Since there are no verifiied sightings in Orange County, California, your sighting will be looked at with skepticism until verified.
Check out this great video from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources:
The Owls of Orange County