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Birds of prey declining, leaving empty nests behind

July 25, 2008 | 11:41 am

Barn_owl

Raptors in Orange County and other parts of Southern California are declining in numbers, having difficulty hatching chicks and leaving long-inhabited nest sites abandoned, probably because of environmental pressures, the Orange County Register reports:

[Experts] say raptors in Orange and San Diego counties, and perhaps across Southern California, appear to be suffering a variety of harmful environmental changes that are happening all at once: reductions in available prey, drought, West Nile virus and continuing loss of habitat because of expanding human presence and large, destructive wildfires.

The Register talked to several raptor experts at bird sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers who said there has been a decline in adult birds of prey and occupied nests in recent years. The hardest hit species include red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, kestrels, barn owls (shown above) and white-tailed kites, they said.

The experts also noted that more of the raptors they take in these days, rather than having visible injuries, are are simply weak or starving, signs of general "debilitation" that point to a serious scarcity of prey and habitat.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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