Date: 12/31/17 6:40 pm
From: 'Nancy Christensen' <nancy.r.christensen...> [SanDiegoRegionBirding] <SanDiegoRegionBirding-noreply...>
Subject: RE: [SanDiegoRegionBirding] Harris's Hawk provenance
I have just received from Andy Rathbone a link that leads to the newspaper article to which I was referring :

The Sentinel has been purchased by the Union-Tribune and has a searchable database of articles. According to the article, there were 3 individual hawks, and that birds were photographed and possibly tagged. There may be records with the Wildlife Research Institute. This article was published in February 2010, and I reported one in Oct 2012. Certainly it seems to indicate a longer occupation than might have been suspected. I do note that neither time I have photographed Harris’s Hawks in Ramona, they have not been wearing a tag.

Here is the text from the article:

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.

Copyright © 2017, <> Ramona Sentinel

Nancy Christensen


From: Susan Smith [mailto:<seiurus...>]
Sent: Sunday, December 31, 2017 5:33 PM
To: <nancy.r.christensen...>; <sandiegoregionbirding...>
Subject: Re: [SanDiegoRegionBirding] Harris's Hawk provenance

Of the 29 San Diego County records of Harris' Hawk (geez, why HASH and not HAHA, I wonder???I would like to make it HAHA), 22 have been accepted by the California Birds Records Committee. But always good to keep the question open. (Four of those records were classified as 'Natural Occurrence Questionable'). Thankfully we have the CBRC to make the ultimate decision about these issues after thoughtful consideration. Nancy, did you submit your 2012 sighting tho the CBRC? It is not recorded there. I recall two adults in Santee in winter of 1995, and this occurrence was accepted by the committee. As I mull this stuff over I am once again reminded of how lucky we are here in San Diego County to have foundation resources like Phil Unitt's San Diego County Bird Atlas and the California Bird Records Committee website to go to when these questions arise. It should be interesting to see how this develops. I know Harris's are a popular falconry bird, but then there is this history of multiple birds appearing naturally here in the county, but it is ultimately the CBRC after reviewing the submitted documentation, to make the decision.. so hoping you are writing this all up and submitting lots of pics... sue

Susan Smith

Seiurus Biological Consulting

Del Mar, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: 'Nancy Christensen' <nancy.r.christensen...> <mailto:<nancy.r.christensen...> [SanDiegoRegionBirding] <SanDiegoRegionBirding-noreply...> <mailto:<SanDiegoRegionBirding-noreply...> >
To: sandiegoregionbirding <sandiegoregionbirding...> <mailto:<sandiegoregionbirding...> >
Sent: Sun, Dec 31, 2017 2:25 pm
Subject: [SanDiegoRegionBirding] Harris's Hawk provenance

I wanted to speak up about the Harris’s Hawk being seen in Ramona. Logan Kahle had some interesting thoughts on the bird in his Ebird checklist: " A little bit of pedantic rambling about provenance: It was my impression based on the information at hand that this is likely a long-staying escapee, but am more than happy to reconsider. Showed no obvious feather wear. Additionally was relatively shy, becoming wary and eventually flushing when we got within 50 yards or so. According to the landowner where the hawk is roosting, the bird has been present for quite a while, and the apr 2016 record from the Ramona grasslands very likely (IMO) represents the same bird. So, considering all of the above one of three seemingly reasonable possibilities can be considered: 1) the bird is wild and has b een present for at least 18 months, and represenys the most westerly and most coastal wild harriss hawk to ever set up residence in the state (as distinguished from wintering) 2) the bird is an escapee and has set up residence in the area or 3) the bird is different from the ramona bird, is relatively recently-arrived, and could be either escaped or wild. My inclination is to believe #2 due to the age and pattern of sightings. "

This is my third Harris’s Hawk sighting in Ramona – the first being Oct 31, 2012. This was only 4 months after I began “birding” and I really didn’t have much knowledge about the relative rareness of any particular species. When I saw the Harris’s Hawk in 2012 (not too far from Rangeland Road – still on the perimeter of the grasslands) I knew it was unusual and marked rare on Ebird. However, the Ramona Sentinel had run a newspaper article about a nesting pair of Harris’s Hawks in Ramona. The specific location was kept secret for the stated purpose that the landowner was concerned that falconers might try to come and take the chicks. So I made the assumption that it was a bird with low numbers in the county, but nothing exceptional. I think around that time there were HaHa nesting in Jacumba as well.

That being said, if this current hawk is linked to that nesting pair in some manner, I think it needs to be regarded as a wild bird and not a long-term escapee. Logan’s comments about this would be the most coastal of residence is an eye-opener for me. I have writ ten a note to the person who was editor at the Ramona Sentinel at that time (I can only estimate 2010-2012, before I was birding) to see if there is some way I can search for the article so that a time line can be established. As far as I know, this paper has not been digitized, so I may have to go read old copies to get the info.

Nancy Christensen


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