Tule Ponds at Tyson

Birds of prey have powerful taloned feet for grasping and killing, and hooked beaks for tearing flesh.  They include daytime hunters such as kites, vultures, hawks, eagles and falcons; and owls, which are nocturnal hunters.  The following birds of prey have been observed at Tyson Lagoon:

Turkey Vulture
Cathartes aura

Turkey vultures are large eagle-like birds, with 2-toned blackish wings and small red naked heads.  “Kettles” of vultures are often seen soaring in wide circles with their wings held in a “V” position (dihedral).  They rock from side to side riding thermals of rising air and seldom flap their wings.  Vultures feed on the flesh of dead animals (carrion).

Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis

The red-tailed hawk is our most common hawk.  Most adult red-tails have a dark head and belly band of dark streaks on whitish underparts.  The distinctive fan shaped red-tail is visible when the hawks are soaring overhead.  Their call is a harsh, descending keeeeer.

Pandion haliaetus

The osprey is a large fish-eating hawk.  It is dark brown above and white below.  The head is white with a dark eye stripe.  It hovers with beating wings and plunges feet first to catch fish.  An osprey sometimes perches on the dead eucalyptus tree on the west side of Tyson Lagoon.

American Kestrel
Falco sparverius

The American kestrel is the smallest and most common of our falcons.  It has a russet back and tail, and two black stripes on a white face.  The male has blue-gray wings.  Kestrels feed on insects, small reptiles and mammals and hover over their prey before plunging to seize them in their talons.  They were formerly called sparrow hawks because they may feed on small birds in winter.  Their call is a shrill, loud killy killy killy.

Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus

The peregrine falcon has a characteristic black helmet and a heavy black “mustache”.  Adults have slate-colored backs and are pale below with bars and spots.  Peregrine populations declined drastically because DDT caused their egg shells to become so thin that they broke when incubated.  Since DDT has been banned, peregrine falcons have increased in numbers.  Peregrine falcons have been observed flying over Tyson Lagoon.

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