The 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count is underway and continues through Monday. To celebrate, we take a look at a few of the more prestigious raptors of California that have come dangerously close to extinction that you might find in your own backyard.
The bald eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for Native Americans. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the bald eagle was close to extinction in the lower 48 states with fewer than 30 nesting pairs in California, largely due to the use of pesticides. It has made a remarkable comeback with surveys showing that the state’s winter population exceeds 1,000.
Golden eagles are found throughout North America, but are more common in western North America. Little is known about the eagle abundance, but it is thought that numbers may be declining in some, if not all, parts of their range. Golden eagle abundance in California is unknown.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, capable of reaching 150 to 200 mph in their dives when chasing prey. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century but have made an incredible recovery and are regularly seen in large cities and coastal areas.
The white-tailed kite earns its name for the way it resembles a kite in flight. With its body turned toward the wind and wings gently flapping, it hovers above the ground like a kite. The white-tailed kite was rendered almost extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s due to shooting and egg-collecting, but they are now common again. Although their distribution is patchy, they can be found in the Central Valley and southern coastal areas.
While great stretches of the United States, from New York to Iowa, have seen a decline in barn owls since the 1950s, California maintains surprisingly robust populations due to the abundance of open space of natural grasslands and agricultural fields, where rodent populations increase significantly.
FLOCK TO THE WEB
Great Backyard Bird Count participants are asked to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on one or more days this weekend and report sightings online at birdcount.org.
You can see what birds are regularly in your area with eBird species maps.
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