Perch addition brings hawks back to the neighborhood!

Part of our goal in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire was to involve the community in putting up raptor nesting boxes (Barn Owl, American Kestrel and Screech Owl boxes) and adding perching to land where it would be beneficial for raptors to perch and hunt. While we have been successful at building and placing 50+ barn owl boxes since the fire, we were hoping people would take action on their own as well…

We received this wonderful email not too long ago…

“Build it and they will come.” And they came, and kept coming!

We live in a foothill neighborhood of Ventura and In the months following the Thomas fire we noticed the wildlife was clearly displaced – a natural consequence of the surrounding devastation.

In late spring we noticed two young hawks perched on avocado tree stumps on the hill behind our house (we lost part of our hill in the fire, including about 25 avocado trees). We saw the two hawks several times thereafter; sometimes they were on the ground on our hill, perched on tree stumps or flying overhead. They may have come from a large nest we found in an oak tree in the empty lot next to our house, and we surmised the two were nest mates.

We called the Ojai Raptor Center several times for guidance regarding the hawks and found plans for a hawk perch online. The perch was constructed according to the plans (thanks to the help of friends) and erected on our burned hillside, close to where we had initially seen the young hawks. The very next day we saw our first hawk perched on it, and nearly every morning since, we have seen a hawk on the perch looking for prey!

And they kept coming! To our surprise, on November 16th, while we were watching a hawk on the perch through our scope (recently purchased for hawk watching) a second hawk landed on the perch. The two sat there for several minutes and based on their size difference, it appeared to be a male and female. For several mornings, we observed the two hawks perched together. I am certain these were the two that we had been watching for months! One morning, while watching the female on the perch, she called out and within seconds, the male had joined her. Clearly a pair! A Raptor Center volunteer (thank you Geralyn) identified the pair as Red-shouldered Hawks.

We have not only shared the success story of our hawk perch with our friends and neighbors, but along the way we have encouraged others to not use rodenticides in an effort to protect these beautiful raptors.

We are so enjoying the wildlife that has found a new home after the Thomas fire. Thank you for your sage advice and guidance along our journey!

David & Ellen

P.S. We are preparing to install a second hawk perch, close to our side yard and the empty lot next door that burned in the fire. And we have seen two Great Horned Owls in a tree in our side yard (and heard their duet) and may put up a “nest cone” high in the tree in an effort to help the owl pair in their pursuit of a nest.

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This is exactly what we were hoping for. By providing this perch, this family gave this mated pair of adult Red-shouldered Hawks a place to perch and hunt. T-perches are incredibly beneficial to many local raptor species as they all need places to perch and many of them employ the “perch and search” method of hunting; where they will perch above an open area and scan for prey. This, of course provides natural rodent control for the area where the perch is- a win-win! Rat and other rodent poisons are not not necessary when you take the right steps. We are also very excited and proud that this family has a new found love of raptor watching and have become raptor conservationists in their own backyard.

Thank you to Ellen Harriger for this wonderful story and accompanying photos.

Building plans to our our raptor boxes and perching can be found here.