All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hawks in the City



Q. I was wondering if you could post an article on hawks in Garden
Grove. I am worried about people letting out little dogs and cats that
could get eaten. There is a hawk right outside my house now looking
for food, and I never knew hawks would be around a residential area.
Plus, he got real close to my back patio looking at my bird. I think
he wants to eat him. I think it is very important to be aware so
people can protect their pets. Everyone I spoke to around here did not
know there were hawks, and these are people who have lived here for 55
years.

A. You might be surprised to read this, but hawks (and owls, kestrels,
falcons, turkey vultures and eagles) have lived happily in all of the
residential cities of Orange County for as long as the cities have
existed, and long before that, too.

Often, you'll notice a lot of these beautiful raptors as you drive
along the freeways. They enjoy sitting at the tops of tall light posts
where they can observe the surrounding area in search of small rodents
and birds. They can also be spotted when they are bullied by flocks of
crows and other birds who don't appreciate having a predator in their
midst. These scuffles are usually very noisy; so when you hear some
noisy birds in the air, look up and most likely you'll see a hawk
getting ganged up on by a smaller, very brave birds.

Red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, Cooper's hawks and American
kestrels are some of the more common predator birds in the area. If
you're really lucky, you might see a beautiful Osprey in the spring,
when they sometimes nest in coastal parts of Orange County. Turkey
vultures, though not predators, can be spotted soaring in the skies.
Their long, two-toned wingspan is noticeable as they glide in big
circles, searching for roadkill. Golden eagles, which are often
confused with hawks, are rare in the cities, but are still seen on
occasion. If you'd like to get a good look at a golden eagle, your
best bet is to take a trip into the foothill areas of Orange County.
They are a majestic and beautiful sight to behold.

Large owls and hawks can indeed carry away small cats and dogs. This
is yet another reason why cats should be kept as indoor pets and dogs
should not be left alone in back yards all day and night.

Owners of pet birds should ensure that their feathered companions are
placed in fully enclosed aviaries when allowed to enjoy the outdoors.
Not only does this protect them from predator birds, but it also keeps
them safe from neighborhood cats and wild birds that could be infected
with parasites or diseases.

Hawks and other birds of prey are important to the ecosystem. They do
an amazing job keeping rodent populations under control, which in an
urban setting is really helpful. They rarely have an interest in dogs
and cats; however, this isn't an issue if pet owners make sure that
their pets are maintained responsibly.

Sadly, most of our local birds of prey seem to be having a tough time.
Ornithologists who have been studying local species have noticed a
steady decline in their numbers. Though there is a lot of speculation
as to why this is happening; drought and loss of habitat because of
wildfires and human activity are likely the main causes.

One species, the Cooper's hawk, seems to be adapting to all of the
changes – and thriving. This particular species has figured out how to
live well in the urban setting, and its population is growing. I
wouldn't be surprised if the hawks you've noticed in Garden Grove are
Cooper's hawks. From late September to March, Cooper's hawks from "out
of town" fly to the county because of the mild climate, so the species
becomes even more noticeable.

If you'd like to learn more about local birds, I would recommend
getting your hands on a field guide with color pictures and a pair of
binoculars. Once you spend some time watching these creatures, you'll
realize they are great and interesting neighbors to have.

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