[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
March 21
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Oct 3, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugIt is a beautiful day and you are on the trail. You see the shadow of a bird high overhead. You can tell it is a bird of prey, flying in large circles and looking for a meal. Now comes the big question: Red-tailed or red-shouldered hawk? Suddenly, the sun hits the fanning tail: It is rusty red and shining. No problem. Identification accomplished, you congratulate yourself for always being able to recognize a red-tailed hawk.

A few days later, you are on the trail with a birder friend. Same scene, and a hawk is flying overhead when your friend exclaims with assurance, “Red-tailed hawk.” You look, but this bird does not look anything like the one from the other day. Your friend sees the confusion in your face and explains (gently, I hope), “The  juvenile red-tailed hawk has completely different plumage, brown and gray with a pale rectangle on the primary (flight) feathers. They are juveniles for the first two years of their lives.

“To confuse you even more,” your friend continues, “there is a light, intermediate and dark morph where the birds have a pale breast, brown head and streaked belly band, and to be safe, the identification is done by studying the shape of the bird – the wings and tail pattern.

hawk100213“Further complicating things, if you see a red-tailed hawk – which is the most common and widespread hawk – in another state, the plumage coloration will probably be different. In winter (October to March), even in the West, you can see birds of various morphs, and some dark morph birds also breed locally.”

Too much information. Discouraged, you come home and tackle Google to learn all there is to know about red-tailed hawks and listen to the bird calls to soothe away your frustration.

I do not pretend to tell you all there is to know about this bird, but I do want to review a few facts to give you a chance to appreciate and enjoy this beautiful creature.

Even if you have not paid attention to it, you have heard its calls. It is a loud, harsh, drawn-out scream. It also has shorter, clipped notes.

In my neighborhood, those calls are often mixed with the ravens’ calls.  Ravens will attack the hawk, protecting their nest and chasing the hawk away.

The red-tailed hawk vocalizes often, even in flight, but is the loudest – and justly so – when it is reacting to another hawk intruding on its territory. The scream of the red-tailed hawk is the one chosen by the movie industry to represent all hawks; it is the generic raptor sound effect of choice, even if the bird in the scene is not a red-tailed hawk.

When you look at the bird, the most impressive features you see are its fierce eyes and sharp beak. The eyes are so big, they cannot move in the sockets, and the bird needs to turn its head to see in different directions. That result is a fixed, intense glare. Immature birds have yellow irises that slowly get darker to a reddish brown in about four years.

hawk100213bMeat hook for a beak? That makes sense; it is a bird of prey. Their diet is 85 percent small rodents. Consequently, this is a bird with an important role in the environment to control our population of rats and mice. They also eat birds, reptiles and even large insects.

They have two ways to hunt: (1) They look for prey from an elevated perch like a telephone pole, and they swoop down fast to catch the prey with their extended talons. They have very good vision and can see a mouse from 100 feet away. And (2), they fly in large circles, checking the territory and seeing the progress of prey until they can dive – at speeds in excess of 100 mph – to grab the prey, or they can catch a bird in flight.

To conserve energy, they do not flap their wings, instead using wind currents to float around. They move at about 20 mph to 40 mph.

Their feathers are considered sacred to many native Americans. They are used in religious ceremonies and are found in many regalia outfits. For the rest of the population, those feathers are regulated by the eagle feather law, which governs the possession of feathers and parts of migratory birds.

Red-tailed hawks are birds of choice for falconry because they are easy to train to hunt for their owner. However, only hawks which have left the nest, are on their own and are less than a year old, can be trapped to be trained. That way, the breeding population is not affected.

The sport is tightly regulated, and we are proud to have Dave Stives at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. Dave is an expert falconer and has trained a few birds – always with great care and understanding.

The red-tailed hawk mates for life and often nests in the same area, adding twigs to a nest that becomes larger each year.

The courtship can last 10 minutes. Male and female fly together, and the male makes some acrobatic moves while they screech at each other. Sometimes they grasp each other’s talons in the air.

Red Tailed hawkFemales lay one to three eggs. The mother will mostly tend to them, but the father will fill in from time to time while the mother goes hunting. After 28 to 35 days, the eggs will hatch and the nestlings are atricial, meaning the parents must do everything for them.

The female will brood the babies and the male will do the hunting. The young ones are called eyasses, and after 42 to 46 days, they will leave the nest for short flights. Finally, seven weeks later, after they leave the nest, they can start to catch their own prey. It is only when they are four months old that they are independent from the parents, but they will not reach sexual maturity until age 3.

Their life expectancy is about 21 years. The oldest red-tailed hawk in captivity was 29 years old.

These beautiful birds are North America’s most common hawk and can be found in a wide range of habitats except the high arctic. Most predators attack the eggs or nestlings, but not the fully mature birds, and their population remains constant.

Red-tailed hawks are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and that was a very positive move. The screech of the red-tailed hawk is one of the wild sounds so typical and loved in California.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.


Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
Quentin Kopp, retired judge and Bay Area politician, was once chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority and helped sell the bullet train to voters. He’s now suing to stop it, saying, "The litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
Thursday, Mar 8, 2018
A wildfire stripped the banks of Placerita Creek of its thick, lush blanket of green – exposing thousands of shoots of the evil tamarisk.
Friday, Mar 2, 2018
In her March 2018 message, Mayor Laurene Weste outlines why Santa Clarita is a tech-savvy "smart city" and previews coming upgrades in street lighting, recycling stations and the local fiber-optic network.
Thursday, Feb 15, 2018
There was broad public support for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which struck a careful balance between lands available for large-scale renewable energy development and the environment. Now the federal government is rethinking it - putting the important and much-needed protections at risk.
Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018
You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter SCV Group Chair Sandra Cattell urges Santa Clarita Valley residents to contact their congressional representatives to push legislation to kill the Cemex mining project in Soledad Canyon.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]
The William S. Hart High School Wind Ensemble & Concert Band, as well as the Placerita Junior High School Advanced Band will be holding a Rich Musical Heritage Concert, Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.
March 22: Rich Musical Heritage Concert
If you think you have the right stuff, Blue Star Ranch is looking for volunteers.
Blue Star Ranch Seeking Volunteers
Comic books, comic strips, graphic novels and web comics often provide an escape from reality.
CSUN Professor Establishes Comic Studies Society
From Oklahoma! to The Sound of Music, American composer Richard Rodgers forever changed the face of Broadway musicals, giving them stories and making them oh, so hum-able.
The Soraya to Celebrate Composer Richard Rodgers
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion aimed at preventing foster youth from becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring supportive care for those do.
Supes Approve Motion Preventing ‘Dual Status,’ ‘Crossover’ Foster Youth
On Friday, March 23, CalArts alum Travis Wilkerson’s (Film/Video MFA 01) latest documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? screens at CalArts' Bijou theater.
March 23: CalArts Screening ‘Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?’
LOS ANGELES – As part of the team’s continuing celebration of 60 seasons in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will pay tribute to one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history by permanently marking a commemorative seat located in the area of the Right Field Pavilion where Kirk Gibson’s historic walk-off home run landed during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The “Kirk Gibson seat” is the first seat at Dodger Stadium to be marked in tribute to a historic event.
Dodgers Honor Kirk Gibson Homerun with Seat in Right Field Pavilion
Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, a non-profit that mobilizes community faith groups in the SCV to assist homeless families, recently announced that after six years at its current Resource Center, they are in need of finding a new site for its offices in order to provide services to homeless families.
Local Non-Profit Seeking New Office Site
Adonna Khare will demonstrate carbon art at the April 16 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA). This event is free, open to the public and meets at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd.
April 16: Carbon Art by Adonna Khare
Santa Claritans will have an early spring celebration at the “Touches of Spring”, an art show featuring Zony Gordon, an award-winning local artist who will be showing from March 12- April 30, 2018 at the Art & Photo Gallery of Fast Frame in Valencia.
March 24: Zony Gordon Artist Reception
The ARTree Studio 2 will be holding an art exhibit by artist Six, called Food Memories beginning Friday, March 23 with an opening night reception from 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
March 23-25: Food Memories Art Exhibit by Six
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for March 22-24:
March 22-24: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
Shoppers can find all what they need to make that special Easter Brunch this year by visiting the Santa Clarita Farmers Market located at the College of the Canyons, parking lot 5 on Valencia Boulevard. The market will be open on Easter Day and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Santa Clarita Farmers Market Open Easter Sunday
The Triumph Foundation's Wheelchair Sports Festival will take place on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Sunday April 29 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
April 28-29: Triumph Foundation’s Wheelchair Sports Festival
With significant rain moving across the area Tuesday through Thursday this week, there is a moderate to high risk of debris flows near recent burn areas.
National Weather Service Warns Residents of Debris Flows as Storm Approaches
The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center will hold a Cyber Security: If It's Connected, It Must be Protected Presentation on Wednesday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in Rooms A1 and A2.
March 21: Cyber Security Presentation at Senior Center
The 2018 Spring Season Opener did not disappoint as it had drama tense moments 4 yellow cards a red card, player down with injury and the Storm settled with an even 2-2 draw.
Tense SC Storm Season Opener Ends in 2-2 Tie
Want to build your own social media empire, or just improve your social media presence? Learn from the best at SCV Startup Grind featuring Rachel Hollis, tonight.
March 20: SCV Startup Grind
This past weekend, all six William S. Hart district color guards participated in the mid-season contest, hosted at Valencia High School and sponsored by the Winter Guard Association of Southern California.
Hart District Color Guards Compete at Valencia High School
(Washington, DC) - On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) introduced H.R. 5337, the Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act of 2018.
Knight Measure Would Speed Up Payment for Small Business Contractors
2012 - County supervisors approve 50-year operating agreement for Placerita Canyon State Park [read]
The city of Santa Clarita Tourism Marketing District Advisory Board's next Regular Meeting is set for Tuesday, March 20 at City Hall starting at 2 p.m.
March 20: Tourism Marketing District Advisory Board Meeting
The Small Business Investment Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bi-partisan group of Senators.
Knight Small Business Opportunity Act Introduced in Senate
The city of Santa Clarita's Planning Commission will hold its next Regular Meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, March 20 starting at 6 p.m.
March 20: Planning Commission Regular Meeting
The Master's University freshman track and field athletes showed great promise at the Ross and Sharon Irwin Collegiate Scoring Meet at Point Loma Nazarene University on Sunday.
TMU Track and Field Freshmen Shine at Point Loma
During Sunday's ninth inning, Master's came out on the wrong side — of a 5-4 final score at McBean Park in Lincoln and a three-game sweep.
TMU Baseball Squanders Grand Slam in Series Finale
The TMU Mustangs baseball team (17-12, 10-9 in Golden State Athletic Conference) was swept 9-1 and 5-3 by NAIA No. 7 William Jessup on the road Saturday.
Mustangs Baseball Drops Two to Jessup
"They'll be back," TMU men's basketball team's lone senior Lawrence Russell said after a 106-104 loss to Peru State College in the first round of the NAIA Division 1 National Championship tournament Wednesday.
TMU Men’s Basketball Team Eyes Another Run
Chandra Subramaniam spent his first week as the new dean of California State University, Northridge’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics learning about the job and the people he’ll be working with.
Chandra Subramaniam is New Dean of CSUN’s Nazarian Business College
Santa Clarita Valley students, teachers, families and supporters will gather for a "March for Our Lives" rally at Marketplace Park in Valencia on Saturday, March 24, starting at 10 a.m., to demand an end to gun violence in schools.
March 24: SCV ‘March for Our Lives’ Rally to ‘Demand Safe Schools’
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is expanding its S.H.A.R.E. Program in an effort to reduce reports of hate crimes and hate incidents throughout the county.
LASD Expands ‘S.H.A.R.E.’ Anti-Hate Program
Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser has extended a county beach use advisory through Tuesday night at 10 due to runoff from the recent rainfall.
Beach Use Advisory Extended Through Tuesday
'NCIS," 'Criminal Minds' and three feature films are among the productions filming in the Santa Clarita Valley March 19-25, 2018.
‘NCIS,’ ‘Criminal Minds,’ 3 Features Now Filming in Santa Clarita
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors invites you to join us in celebrating Public Defense Day today to honor the 55th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright.
County Observes ‘Public Defense Day,’ Seeks New Top PD
As Metro begins to put together its transportation budget for the 2019 fiscal year, effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, the agency seeks input from the public to help set priorities.
Metro Seeks Public Input on FY-19 Budget