"Birds of Prey Falling Victim To 'Ecological Drought'"

"Less food for hawks, owls, white-tailed kites, falcons and even golden eagles is theorized to be connected to years of too-dry weather. One apparent consequence: a 'breeding crash' beyond any in local experts' memory."

"On a baking landscape of oaks and tinder-dry grass, researcher Scott Thomas set up his viewing scope and quickly found what he hoped he wouldn’t: an empty red-tailed hawk nest.

Such nests should be bustling with hawks and their chicks this time of year, as they have for decades. But Thomas says birds of prey across coastal Southern California are experiencing what could be their worst breeding year on record – a 90 to 95 percent rate of failure, most likely because of the severe drought gripping the region.

'At the end of 2013 we started seeing more failure than we would have expected,' said Thomas, who has been trapping, tagging and monitoring birds of prey for 20 years. 'This year, most of the nests are inactive. No doubt they were starving early, because they didn’t start anything.'"

Pat Brennan reports for the Orange County Register May 17, 2014.

Monday, May 19, 2014