Harris hawk family moves in
A rare family of Harris hawks appears to have set up home in Ramona.
The property owner, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect the feathered family from poachers and looky-loos, said he has been watching the family for about two weeks and they appear to be settled in.
“There appear to be two females and a male, so far,” he said. “At first I thought they were eagles because of the unusually high-pitched scream of one of the females, but it appears clear that they are Harris hawks.”
That was confirmed by Dave Bittner, executive director of the Wildlife Research Institute on Highland Valley Road, who went out to study, photograph and tag the birds.
“They are one of the unusual bird species that stay together as a family. They play together, hunt together and can be very social,” said Bittner.
He said that it is unusual for them to nest in Ramona, generally favoring southern Texas, Arizona and Mexico.
“This is pretty much the northern extremity of their nesting area, and we are thrilled to see them,” said Bittner.
The first thing he will do, said Bittner, is to go to San Diego Gas & Electric officials and urge them to modify power poles in the area to protect the birds against electrocution. He said he has raised the issue of providing more protection for the birds in the past, but this would be a great opportunity to protect and maybe start a small colony of very unusual birds for the area.
Many hundreds of birds are electrocuted each year as they stand on top of the poles and spread their wings, touching the wires, often falling to the ground starting fires.
A simple way to prevent this death, said Bittner, is to let a few feet of the pole protrude above the wire-carrying cross trees, giving the birds more room to perch above the wires as they survey the surrounding ground for prey.
“After all the poles SDG&E lost in the recent fires, I was very disappointed to see them replaced just as they were before,” said Bittner. “It was a wonderful opportunity to protect these, and the many migratory birds that pass through here, but the opportunity was lost.”
He said that the Harris hawk families can grow to as many as 10 birds. There used to be a family of about six in Borrego Springs, but it is believed that they have all been since lost to electrocution.
As for the property owner who discovered them, he said he is shocked at the number of birds lost to electrocution and he is determined to do all he can to protect this little family, and hopes that other people in Ramona will help.
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