Birds of Prey

Photo of a bird being banded

The peregrine was fitted with a satellite transmitter and tracked during the southward migration.

My interest in raptors originated from a misspent youth (during grad school), hunting with hawks in England. I took a falconry course from mentor, Nick Fox in the 1983. I flew all sorts, but eventually found my niche with European sparrowhawks, chasing starlings, blackbirds, and moorhens across lowland habitats. I was impressed with how my sparrowhawks used different tactics for chasing particular prey, largely based on initial successes and failures. I was amazed how some (but not all) hawks learned to outsmart prey by approaching from behind hedgerows or natural contours (see the BBC video). Each bird had a unique, measureable personality. This led to a growing interest in describing how raptors are distributed in relation to their habitat and food supply.

Red-breasted geese establish their nests near falcon nests.

Keen birders that explore Humboldt County’s habitats see a variety of birds of prey, including peregrine falcons, merlins, American kestrels, northern harriers, white-tailed kites, osprey, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, ruff-legged hawks, bald eagles, golden eagles, and of course turkey vultures. Several owl species also occur locally, including short-eared owls, barred owls, spotted owls, great horned owls, and barn owls.


I’ve had the pleasure of working with four graduate students on bird of prey projects.

2013 - 2016 – Liz Morata – Home range and hunting locations of non-migratory peregrine falcons in northern California. Cal Poly Humboldt. MS candidate. [Liz is now a biologist for an environmental consultant].

2013 - 2016 – Gen Rozhon – Wintering home range and habitat selection of ruff-legged hawks in California. Cal Poly Humboldt. MS candidate. [Gen is now a biologist for an environmental consultant].

2003 - 2009 – Chris West – Vigilance in reintroducted captive-bred California condors after release into the wild. Cal Poly Humboldt. MS candidate. [Chris is now head biologist for the Yurok Tribe, working on a program to experimentally release California condors in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, northern California].

1995 - 2000 – John Quinn – Nest association between Red-breasted geese and birds of prey in Arctic Russian. Edward Grey Institute for Field Ornithology, Oxford University, England. PhD candidate. [John is now a reader/professor at the University of Cork, Ireland].

Quinn JL, Prop J, Kokorev Y & Black JM 2003. Predator protection or similar habitat in red-breasted goose nesting associations: extremes along a continuum. Animal Behaviour 65, 297-307.

Quinn JL, Kokorev Y, Prop J, Fox N, Black JM (2000) Are Peregrine Falcons in Northern Siberia still affected by organochlorines? In: Meyburg BU, Chancellor RD (Eds) Proceedings of the 5th World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls, Johannesburg. Hancock Press, Blaine, Washington.