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Native Birds

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

The grackle is a type of blackbird.  They are usually in groups and those groups are noisy!  The males have shiny feathers and the females are browner and less fancy.  Grackles are about 4 to 6 inches high and have short legs.  They are found in many habitats, but often in cities and towns, where they eat almost anything they can find. 

Barn Swallows (babies on our campus, 2013)

Barn Swallows (babies on our campus, 2013)

Barn swallows live all over the Western part of the United States.  They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects which they catch midair!  They build nests out of mud and grass, which they use like cement that dries.  The nests tend to be on ledges or under roofs where the babies are protected from weather and predators.  They can have up to 5 babies at a time, and both parents help feed the chicks. They are a protected species in California, which means it is not legal to hurt them or knock down their nests.

Wild Turkey (picture from National Geographic)

Wild Turkey (picture from National Geographic)

Turkeys used to live here for a long time, but then they were hunted and were only in the hills.  They were reintroduced recently to the Monterey Bay area.  It is one of the only domestic birds native to this continent, and European explorers took a bunch back with them in the 1500's!  The female takes care of the chicks when they hatch until they learn to eat by themselves.  They eat acorns, nuts, seeds, fruit, flower buds, fern fronds, and sometimes salamanders or small snakes.  The male makes the "gobble-gobble" sound to attract females. Several male turkeys visited our campus this year and surprised everyone who saw them during AYUDE!

California Towhee (picture by Eric Rosenberg)

California Towhee (picture by Eric Rosenberg)

The California towhee is in the sparrow family.  They eat insects and seeds and are often seen hopping along the ground, which is how they like to move most of the time until they have to fly.  They have a short, high chirp and have the funny habit of attacking their reflections in mirrors and windows.  They live in backyards and fields.

American Crow by Kevin McGowan

American Crow by Kevin McGowan

The American crow is a common bird in California and all over the country.  They are social and like to hang around in groups.  Families of crows will sometimes stay together in the same area.  They will eat almost anything and have a loud, harsh voice.  Scientists have seen crows using tools!

Red-Tailed Hawk (picture from www.nativeanimalrescue.org)

Red-Tailed Hawk (picture from www.nativeanimalrescue.org)

The red-tailed hawk is found in almost every habitat in North America.  It can be up to 22 inches tall with a wingspan of up to 56 inches.  When they are babies, they eat worms, frogs, mice, and snakes, but when they get older, they eat rodents (like squirrels, rabbits, and gophers) and sometimes fish.  The parent hawks will throw the prey they catch into the air so the baby can try to fly and catch it!  They can spot a rodent up to 100 feet down when they fly and are aggressive when defending their nest or territory.

Cooper's Hawk (picture by Gerry Dewaghe)

Cooper's Hawk (picture by Gerry Dewaghe)

The Cooper's Hawk is a steely-gray color with bars on the tail.  One of their favorite ways to hunt is to fly low to the ground and then suddenly go up and over something to surprise their prey.  They like to live in forests and fields, but they will come closer to areas with humans if there is good food for them there.  At least one has been seen hunting and eating pigeons on our campus!

Bald Eagle (picture by Efren B. Adalem)

Bald Eagle (picture by Efren B. Adalem)

Haliaectus leococephalus This picture is of one of the two bald eagles that have come to live at Pinto Lake in Watsonville.  There is a pair of them and they built a nest this year.  They were almost extinct and were brought back by protective laws and people using fewer pesticides.  This is the first pair here in many years.  They eat fish, small mammals, and even ducks.  The babies are darker and get the white feathers on their heads when they grow up.  They usually live in forests near water like lakes or rivers.