Red-tailed hawk/Photo by National Park Service
Proving the motto that “everyone loves raptors,” the auditorium at the Audubon Center at Debs Park was filled to capacity to hear an evening presentation by legendary birding icon Pete Bloom. Bloom, an international expert in raptor biology and conservation, discussed his dissertation on the habits of red shoulder and red tailed hawks in Southern California region. It is a project 40 years in the making.
“We think these hawks are just in our back yard and then you discover they fly all the way to Idaho. Idaho! We have so much more to learn about them.”
Pete Bloom (right) at Debs Park Audubon Center/Photo by Brenda Rees
“I have probably banded about 45,000 hawks,” said Bloom after Wednesday’s presentation, which included studies on the migration patterns as well as vagrancy activity of these hawks that are often seen in Northeast Los Angeles. (Take a look at the electrical poles on the Arroyo Seco Freeway and you’re bound to see a nest or two.) To explain vagrancy, Bloom told the audience to consider vagrant hawks as the “Magellans of the bird world,” birds that often are found in unexpected places for unknown reasons.
Audubon members as well as community neighbors asked about the current population of both hawks. Bloom said he considered the population about a decade ago to be “stable” but lately he has seen something that has affected the numbers of hawks in the L.A. region. “If I had to give an educated guess, I think we are seeing rat poison taking its toll,” he said explaining that homeowners and businesses are doing a great disservice to the eco-system when then use these toxic poisons.
Sure, rats die, but raptors and other big urban mammals (mountain lions and bobcats) eat the poisoned prey and they also become infected. “I could talk for three hours on the dangers of rodenticide,” said Bloom. “It’s this century’s DDT. Animals are being poisoned daily.”
Bloom did not rule out West Nile Virus and climate change as other factors affecting local raptors; even wind turbines present dangers to the migrating hawks.
Bloom continues his field work, banding and studying the hawks. “The world is full of mysteries and there are still discoveries to be found.”
Brenda Rees is a writer living in Eagle Rock
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