Monday, September 13, 2010

Birds in Tilden

So on a hike about 2 weeks ago with some friends, I saw two birds in an unexpected place.  I see these birds all the time, but I don't usually expect to see them in the trees.

The first was what we believe was a juvenile red-tailed hawk.  Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are very common not just here in California, but throughout North America, and their range extends to islands in the Caribbean and down through Central America.  They are quite variable in coloring and here in the West they have three forms, light, dark and intermediate.  The dark are completely dark brown, so it looks like that's what we've got below.  For more pics and more info, check out this post on 10000 Birds.
The second bird was a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), just sitting in a tree a mere 20 feet from the trail.  It wasn't a tree on the edge of a clearing, we were in the woods.  We thought maybe it was hiding from something, but really we had no idea.  This bird too is a juvenile.  It's head is grey instead of the characteristic red of the adults. Turkey vultures are the most widespread of the New World vultures from Southern Canada to the end of South America.
These are two birds I think of when I think of open space here in California.  I often see them on hikes or long car rides in less populated areas.  But it looks like people all over North America probably think the same.

And as an added bonus, here's a pic of a heron (I believe it's a great blue heron) that I saw while paddling down the Russian River in a canoe over Labor Day weekend. 


  1. Good finds! I'm totally obsessed with raptors. Have you seen a kite up close before? Giant red eyes trained to spot urine trails of rodents. Or when blackbirds bully young Redtails by swooping down mid-air to get them off balance? Like I said, I'm totally obsessed...

  2. Maybe it's just the photo, but the first one looks more owl-like in that picture to me, than hawk. But it's always easier to tell in person. We have some resident red-tailed hawks here, and red-shouldered too. I mostly see the red-shouldered down on the lower branches in the woods, while they're stalking the lizards in our orchard. The turkey vulture does seem somewhat out of place though.

  3. @curbstone: I agree about the photo looking like an owl. We thought it might have been at first, but after not too long, its head was definitely a hawk shape. We thought maybe it was molting.

  4. Oh I love that added bonus! Great blue herons are so majestic. I wonder if we have turkey vultures out here? I didn't realize they had such a big geography. I'm seeing tons of eagles and hawks right now. I guess it's a smorgasbord across the street in the nature preserve for big birds on the move...

  5. I like that part of gardening too, along with flowers and/or veggies, sometimes just popping up at random.

    I just saw a hawk the other day, diving after another smaller bird. Then, the hawk just sat calmly on a fence for a moment.

    I wanted to take a picture of it, but it just wouldn't have come out as good as seeing with your own eyes.

  6. Hey Brad, probably too late but I received an email today about this and totally thought of your recent adventures:

    Arlie Middlebrook, local California native plant author and garden designer will be speaking at the monthly meeting of the California Horticultural Society tonight, Sept 20, at 7:15pm at the County Fair Building at 9th and Lincoln Way, SF.

    The title is "Eating California"--discussing at least 35 edible California native plants. The write up is attached. (I imagine her book of the same title will be available tonight, too.)

    Wish I could forward this on earlier, but at least you could check out the book if you haven't already.