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Friday, March 11, 2016

In Rapture with Raptors: Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk and White-tailed Kite

[California. March 2016]

Having profiled the Peregrine Falcon in our last post, we continue our rapturous gallop further into raptor territory by profiling an outstanding quartet of birds of prey -- three of which are exclusive to the West Coast:
  • Golden Eagle
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • White-tailed Kite
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
 We start with the Golden Eagle:

The fabled Golden Eagle is just slightly smaller than the Bald Eagle. However, it is much grander in every other trait -- indeed, there is considerable reason this global raptor was used as a symbol of Imperial Rome and continues to feature on the national coat of arms of several countries today.

By reputation, this eagle is probably the most formidable and fearless hunter in the world; capable of bringing down deer and wolves and reported to carry off prey weighing up to 10 lbs. Astonishingly, Golden Eagles have been documented to attack and kill prey like reindeer weighing 150 lbs! No other raptor extant today has these kind of killing credentials. 

The Golden Eagle is found in North Africa, Eurasia and North America. In the US, it is found in the West and while it will prey on large animals such as Pronghorn and livestock, its staple diet is small mammals such as hares and ground squirrels. The individual profiled here was observed at Ramona Grasslands near San Diego hunting for ground squirrels [note said rodent in the above image just above the watermark].

If the Golden Eagle exudes majesty, the next raptor is literally named for its regality -- Buteo Regalis:

Ferruginous Hawk seen at Ramona Grasslands

And Buteo Regalis is none other than Ferruginous Hawk -- the largest Hawk in North America and the second largest hawk in the world. It has a wingspan up to 5 feet across and weighs more than twice as much as the Red-shouldered Hawk.

From a regal raptor, we move to a bird of prey that in looks and build has the appearance of being crafted from the finest porcelain: the White-tailed Kite:

This hawk is found in North and South America. Although now relatively common in the Western US, it is easy to forget that it was brought to the point of extinction just 80 years ago in this country by indiscriminate shooting.

This elegant raptor was observed in San Diego at Los Pensaquitos. 

We conclude with a hawk that is found in both the East and the West -- the Red-shouldered Hawk:

Red-shouldered Hawk seen at Santa Teresa
Note that the California race of Red-shouldered Hawk is of bright orange-red coloration (especially on the head and face) -- compare to the much paler Florida race.

If warblers are the butterflies, surely raptors are the Lions of the Avian world. And, there is no better place to see the true "Lion of the Air", the Golden Eagle, with its ferocity and power, than in the Western US.

1 comment:

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Wohoo.. this golden eagle are so attractive and it must be so powerful.. i havent seen this eagle before anywhere.. natgeo should make documentary on this eagle, thanks for sharing such unique details and picture on this forum..!!