Mt. Helix Fauna Has A Name!

MT. HELIX -- We asked the birders of the world to identify this feathered visitor to Mt. Helix and the birders responded. Osprey, baby golden eagle, peregrine falcon, cooper's hawk. And with that variety of answers, we were required to turn to a birding expert to settle the issue.

Bill Toone (right), who heads the Eco-Life Foundation, was for many years the curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo.

Toone took a look at the photo and then spoke with a speed and confidence that one would expect of a professional birder:

"It is a red shouldered hawk,'' Toone pronounced.

Then being the birder that he is, Toone went on to teach a bit about this bird. For all their majestic size, he said, they have relatively small talons so they swoop down from their hunting perch and usually take on mice and small rats, frogs, lizards and insects. They like water settings, but don't fish well. They do well in an urban setting.

And then Toone went on with too much information! These hawks like to live in eucalyptus trees and are cleanliness freaks -- developing the ability from an early age to eject their feces long distances to keep the nest clean. Despite this skill, they are considered a common hawk and can be found across North America.

Their high, screeching call is familiar to birders across San Diego. See video below.

"We have them in our trees,'' Toone said, "and we love them.''


MT. HELIX -- Sure, we all live just 15 minutes from downtown San Diego, but between the coyotes, rabbits, and the rich bird life, it can seem like we're living in a wildlife preserve. This visitor photographed above was recently seen looking for his next meal from high atop a utility pole. (Click on the photo for a larger image.) Can you identify what type bird this is?
Sign in and leave your answer in the comments below. Feel free to share your own photos of the local fauna. Just e-mail your photos to

-- Chris Lavin, Editor

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Tags: La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, Mt. Helix


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Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on August 7, 2012 at 2:59pm

I love it!  He was in my yard a few days ago!  

Comment by David Stanley on August 5, 2012 at 11:01am

I watched this fellow flying above my back yard several times. I am fascinated by the raptors and, looking in my "bird book" it does look rather like a Cooper's Hawk. Definately not a Red Tail or Kestral. Bet find out one of these days.

Comment by Kelley McGue on August 1, 2012 at 6:06pm

Coopers Hawk?

Comment by Thomas F. Lavin Jr on July 30, 2012 at 7:34am

?Peregrine falcon? They are on a come-back nationally...

Comment by helen t. givens on July 28, 2012 at 3:15pm

He is a magnificent bird.  I like to think of him surveying his domain and planning on finding delicious berries and nuts for dinner......and possessing a deep love of all creatures with no desire to harm anything!

Comment by Lisa Moore on July 28, 2012 at 10:28am

Red Hawk

Comment by La Mesa Today on July 28, 2012 at 10:27am
Comment by david schmidt on July 28, 2012 at 8:33am

pretty sure its not a falcon, but based on where its perched I think its one of those new electric birds?? hehe

Comment by Tiffany Shepherd on July 28, 2012 at 7:52am

This appears to be a Red-tailed Hawk.  It is a Buteo hawk and the only other typical Buteo in La Mesa is the Red-shouldered Hawk, but with the white belly and perch location, I'm going to vote Red-tailed.

Comment by Shannon O'Dunn on July 28, 2012 at 7:21am

Hubby Mike Bemis and I think that this is an osprey. A pair of these birds is nesting in the tall eucalyptus trees on the NW side of Harry Griffin Park. Ospreys, sometimes called "sea eagles", are mostly fish-eaters, but there are a lot of fish in local ponds. Ospreys build large nests and return annually to them. 

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