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Birds of Yosemite National Park (1954, 1963) by Cyril A. Stebbins and Robert C. Stebbins


HAWK-LIKE BIRDS: Order Falconiformes

AMERICAN VULTURES: Family Cathartidae

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura): 2-2 1/2 ft. Upper parts blackish; under parts blackish-brown; under side of wings in area of primary and secondary feathers ash-gray; red, bare head; bill whitish; feet flesh-colored. Voice a low hiss, seldom uttered. Carrion feeder. Nests in cavities in cliffs or in hollow trees.

Uncommon R. in the Sierra Nevada, moving to foothills in winter. Has been observed as high as 10,000 feet on Mount Dana but more commonly seen at lower elevations.

KITES, HAWKS, AND EAGLES: Family Accipitridae

GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis): 20-26 in. Above bluish-gray; top of head blackish; white line over eye; below white, streaked and waved with dusky; at a distance under parts appear light gray; black bars across tail; tip of tail edged with white. Female: Larger than male. Immature: Above brown; below streaked with brown on whitish; tail with dark crossbars and broadly tipped with white.

Nests from 5,000 to 9,000 feet in well-forested mountains. In summer associated with coniferous forests but when in the lowlands usually frequents broken woodland. R, in the Sierrta Nevada but often moves to lower elevations in winter. Recorded as nesting near Yosemite Valley.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus): 10-15 in. Resembles Cooper’s hawk but tail square-tipped, not rounded as in Cooper’s hawk. Female: Larger than male, resembling in size a male Cooper’s hawk from which it is distinguished with difficulty. Feeds largely on other birds.

Frequents deciduous or coniferous woodland in summer. Widespread W.V. at lower elevations. R. in Yosemite region, occasionally nesting in Yosemite Valley.

COOPER'S HAWK
COOPER’S HAWK
COOPER’S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii): 14-20 in. Above gray or soft brown, darker on crown and nape; white on nape feathers obscured by brown unless hawk bends head downward or raises feathers; long rounded tail with crossbars of dark brown; tail feathers tipped with white; wings relatively short and broad; under parts white with closely set crossbars of reddish-brown and longitudinal black streaks. Female: Resembles male but is larger. Immature: Above brown; below white coarsely streaked with brown. Feeds on small mammals and birds.

Frequents wooded streams and canyons both in mountains and lowlands. Permanent R. Nests in Yosemite region, including Yosemite Valley.

SWAINSON’S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni): 19-22 in, Light phase: Above dark brown; chin and throat whitish; breast often with broad band of reddish-brown; belly white; under parts of wings buff anteriorly; from above, tail gray, often with whitish base. Dark phase: General coloration dark brown, almost black, lighter on flight feathers and some reddish-brown on under parts; no rust in tail as in adult black phase of redtail. Female: Larger than male. In spring and fall migration may be seen in flocks, differing thus from most other hawks.

Frequents dry plains and woodland of foothills and valleys; occasionally in high mountains. An occasional S. V. to high elevations in Yosemite region.

RED-TAILED HAWK
RED-TAILED HAWK
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis): 19-24 in. Upper parts dark brown; throat heavily streaked with brown; breast whitish with indistinct brownish band; belly tawny, marked with dark brown; under parts of wings without light area anteriorly, differing in this respect from Swainson’s hawk; tail rusty. Female: Larger than male. Immature: Similar to adult but tail brownish-gray and barred with dusky. Often seen soaring. Feeds largely on gophers, ground squirrels, and other small mammals.

Widespread R. occurring from the lowlands to the mountains. Most common large soaring hawk in the Yosemite region; observed as high as 12,000 feet, at the summit of Parsons Peak.


MARSH HAWK (Female)
MARSH HAWK (Female)
MARSH HAWK (Circus cyaneus): 18-24 in. Above, bluish-gray; rump white; tail long, crossed by black bars; tips of wings black; below white with scattered small reddish-brown spots; neck and breast light bluish-gray. Female: Larger than male; above, dark brown; rump white; below tawny; neck and breast streaked; tail barred; legs and toes orange-yellow. Immature: Similar to female but darker; rich dark brown above and on sides of neck and cheeks; below dark cinnamon-rufous, streaked on breast. Nests on the ground.

Frequents salt and freshwater marshes and grassland from the lowlands to the Canadian life zone; chiefly W. V. and C. V. to Yosemite region.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus): 30-36 in. Head and tail white; remaining plumage dark brown. Immature entirely dusky brown except sometimes for touches of whitish on wing lining (not at bases of primaries as in immature golden eagle) and, when approaching adult plumage, whitish at base of tail feathers; no well-defined dark band at tip of tail. To a considerable extent scavenging in habit, feeding on carrion and dead fish but also captures rabbits and rodents. Occasionally frightens the osprey into dropping its fish prey which is then taken by the eagle.

Frequents ocean shores, lake margins, and rivers for foraging and nesting but ranges widely over diverse terrain. Most likely to be seen at lower elevations in the Yosemite region. Reported as nesting at Bower Cave, Mariposa County.

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos): 30-40 in. Largest land bird of Yosemite region. Generally dark brown; head and neck tinged with, golden brown; when seen in flight from below, nearly uniformly dark brown; white at base of tail; tarsi fully feathered; feet greenish-yellow; bill bluish. Female: Larger than male. Immature: Ash-gray patch toward wingtip; tail white with tip broadly bordered with black. Feeds commonly on ground squirrels and rabbits.

R. throughout the Sierra Nevada. Commonly breeds in the Upper Sonoran and Transition life zones but occasionally to above timberline. Often seen soaring near rim of Yosemite Valley.

OSPREYS: Family Pandionidae

OSPREY
OSPREY
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus): 21-24 in. Entirely dark brown above; below generally white; white over eye and on chin; from distance head may appear predominantly white; white of upper throat and breast broken by brown streaks; underside of wing largely whitish with dusky patch near front edge toward tip; legs long, covered with white feathers for much of their length; wings long and slender. Female: Larger than male. Frequents bodies of water. Captures fish by diving feet first to the surface of the water, often from considerable heights. Nest of sticks on ground or a dead tree.

Summer R., principally along the coast and on larger lakes. C. V. to Yosemite region; most likely to be seen at Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor.

FALCONS: Family Falconidae


PRAIRIE FALCON
PRAIRIE FALCON
PRAIRIE FALCON (Falco mexicanus): 17-20 in. Above, grayish-brown; inconspicuous white line over eye; below, white with streaks and spots of brown; dark line on check; throat white; dark patch at base of wing contrasting with generally light-colored under parts, seen in flight. Female: Larger than male. Immature: Generally gray.

Widely distributed R. but nowhere common. Frequents dry, open terrain end rocky ledges. Nests at lower elevations but wanders to above timberline in summer. C. V. to Yosemite region; observed at Yosemite Valley and in the high Sierra.


PEREGRINE FALCON
PEREGRINE FALCON
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus): 15-20 in. Head dark above and at sides; throat white or buffy bordered on each side with black bar; remaining upper parts slaty blue to brownish-black; rest of under parts buffy or whitish crossed with narrow black bars. Female: Larger than male; under parts strongly marked with dark brown bars on light brown. Immature: Below profusely streaked with black on buff. Feeds on other birds caught in flight.

Frequents cliffs. Widespread R. except in southeastern deserts. C. V. in Yosemite region. Sometimes seen near brink of Upper Yosemite Fall.


SPARROW HAWK
SPARROW HAWK
SPARROW HAWK (Falco sparverius): 9-12 in. Top of head and back reddish-brown; back crossbarred with black; tail rusty with broad black band at tip; tip of tail edged with buffy; forward part of wings (when folded) and band bordering top of head bluish-gray; two vertical black bars on side of face; below buffy with black spots on sides and belly. Female: Resembles male except larger, no slate on wings, and under parts streaked heavily with dark brown; rump and tail crossed by black bars. Immature: Resembles female. May be seen poised in the air on rapidly beating wings. Feeds on small rodents and insects which it catches on the ground.

Frequents open country such as plains, deserts, fields, and unforested hillsides. Uses dead trees, rocks, fence posts, telephone poles and wires as perches. R. at lower elevations; often ranges higher in mountains in summer. R. in Yosemite region where in summer it ranges as high as the Hudsonian life zone. To be seen about meadows in Yosemite Valley.


VULTURES, HAWKS and EAGLES
VULTURES, HAWKS and EAGLES


Next: Fowl-like BirdsContentsPrevious: Goose-like Birds

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

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