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American Kestral

American Kestral

The American kestral is the smallest North American falcon-- only about the size of a robin! Adult males have slate blue wings and a rust-colored tail and back. The female is recognizable by the narrow black bands on her tail. Both have two black stripes on their face. Their habitat ranges widely, from open country and forest edges to parks, towns, and cities. You might even see these little fellows sitting on your own back yard fence! While most falcons hunt small game like squirrels, and rabbits, due to it's small size, the American kestrel eats mice, smaller birds, and insects. In towns and cities, where the American kestrel has become adapted to humans, they primarily hunt house sparrows.

References:
Habitats, Plants, and Wildlife of Riverside County. (2015). Riverside: Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency. 


American White Pelican

White Pelican


Is he lost? Pelicans are typically associated with the sea, the white pelican can be found as far inland as Mississippi and as far north as Alberta, Canada and into the North West Territories.
 
They enjoy flocking together and will work together to herd fish into into the shallows so that the pelicans can scoop them up in their great, pouched bills. Pelicans don't actually carry food in their bill pouches, instead the pouch is used to scoop up the fish and then the pelican promptly swallows the catch before going back for more.

One of the largest North American birds, it takes about 150 pounds of fish to feed a chick from birth until it's ready to hunt on its own.

References:
All about birds: Bald eagle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_White_Pelican/lifehistory




Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Named for the stark white feathers on its head, the bald eagle is a rare sight at Lake Perris SRA, though two have been sighted wintering at the lake in recent years. Immature bald eagles are dark brown and can easily be mistaken for another species of bird because they lack the distinctive white head of their parents. Though competent fishers, bald eagles prefer to get their food the easy way: by scavenging dead animals or stealing food from other hawks, eagles, and falcons. In fact, it's not uncommon to see a bald eagle harass an osprey for its fish.

Bald Eagles are large: Their average wingspan is over 6 feet from wing tip to wing tip, and they tend to weigh between 6 and 13 pounds. They also have long lifespans compared to other birds of prey, living an average of 28 years but some have been recorded at 38 years old in the wild. They have been observed staying with the same mate for life. mature, mated pairs build some of the world's largest stick nests-- usually 6 feet in diameter and up to 4 feet tall-- in safe places high above the ground and raise a single pair of eggs each year.

Bald Eagle



References:
All about birds: Bald eagle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/bald_eagle/lifehistory


Burrowing Owl

Burrowing OwlAt first glance, people think that these tiny owls are chicks fallen from their nest, or injured. But the truth is that the burrowing owl spends most of its life on the ground! They can be found in plains, deserts, open fields, and even sand dunes in California, and they are typically the most active at dusk and dawn. If approached, a burrowing owl's first instinct is not flight. Instead, they will bob up and down and, if that doesn't scare away whatever is coming close, they will dive into their burrow.

They can build their own burrows, but these owls are opportunistic and prefer to let ground squirrels and gophers do the hard work before the owl claims the burrow as its own.

Resources: Habitats, Plants, and Wildlife of Riverside County. (2015). Riverside: Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency.


Great White Egret

Great White Egret
Image: Richard DeBoer, LPSRA Supervising Lifeguard Ranger

These birds hunt in a "classic heron fashion" which means they wade slowly through wetlands and along the shore, and stand motionless, waiting patiently for a fish or frog to draw near and then, BAM! They snap them up with a deadly jab of their pointed bill. Sometimes, these birds will even swim out to their prey. Egrets make large stick nests high in trees or other locations that are safe from raccoons who love to eat egret eggs.

Great Egrets were once almost hunted to extinction because there was a large demand for their beautiful white feathers. Their plight helped spark the first bird conservation efforts in North America.

The oldest recorded egret, from Ohio, was 22 year old.

References:
All about birds: Bald eagle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/lifehistory


Great Horned Owl

Great Horned OwlNamed for the large horn-like tufts of feathers on its head, the Great Horned Owl is a familiar sight at Lake Perris SRA. Visitors are often surprised to find these nocturnal animals awake and hanging out in a shady tree in the middle of the day, like this one. They are most active at dusk and at night and have a deep throaty series of hoots, but they are sometimes known to shriek.

While these owls will eat mice, frogs, and scorpions like most others, the Great Horned Owl is also known to take down other predators, such as crows, osprey, falcons, and even other owls.

These birds can be up to 2 feet long with a 4 foot wingspan and weigh up to 5 pounds. The oldest recorded Great Horned Owl was 28 years old in Ohio.

All about birds: Great horned owl. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Horned_Owl/lifehistory





Osprey

Osprey

If you see a large bird dive into the water from 30 to 100 feet in the air and come back up with a fish, you've just seen an osprey picking up lunch. If there's a bald eagle around with a hankering for fish, you'll probably get to see the osprey mugged for his lunch. Don't worry though. The osprey would rather give up his lunch than tangle with a bald eagle.

Osprey breed with the same partner, and return to the same nesting site, year after year. They build their nests, interwoven piles of sticks and moss, on broken trees and the flat portions of rocks, cacti, and even utility poles. These sites are typically tall with little cover which provide the birds with a clear view of other predators. The oldest recorded Osprey lived to be 25 years old, but most live between 4-12 years after fledging. While they are predators themselves, ospreys are not at the top of their food chain. Great Horned Owls, another resident of the Lake Perris State Recreation Area, are known to kill adult osprey, and raccoons will raid untended nests for eggs and chicks.

References:

Osprey. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from National Geographic:
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/osprey/

Tesky, Julie L. (1993). "Pandion haliaetus". U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved 14 March 2016. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/bird/paha/all.html

Image: Bruce Willhite, LPSRA Staff


Red-tailed Hawk


If you've ever heard the familiar, piercing scream of an eagle in a movie, then what you've actually heard is the cry red-tailed hawk. The chirping of eagles wasn't considered majestic enough for Hollywood.

The red-tailed hawk is a common sight in forests and a variety of open country sides, including plains, deserts, farmland, frozen tundra, and even cities where pigeons are plentiful. These hawks are large--slightly over 2 feet tall-- with a wingspan of 4 feet from wingtip to wingtip.

References:
Habitats, Plants, and Wildlife of Riverside County. (2015). Riverside: Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency.


Turkey Vulture

Literally bald, unlike the bald eagle, vultures are easily identified by their red, featherless heads. These birds can be seen soaring high in the sky and are frequently mistaken for eagles from below. They make their homes in deserts, forests, and woodlands, serving as nature's trash-collectors. Though considered ugly, these birds form a valuable part of the food chain by removing garbage and disease-causing carrion from the ground.

Contrary to common belief, vultures are not buzzards. Buzzard is actually a term for a family of hawks.

References:
Habitats, Plants, and Wildlife of Riverside County. (2015). Riverside: Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency.