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Raptors capture spotlight at nature center talk

Posted: August 20, 2013 5:40 p.m.
Updated: August 20, 2013 5:40 p.m.

Placerita Canyon Nature Center docent Linda Ioerger displays a barn owl during the center's Sunday's Community Nature Education Series talk about raptors in the Santa Clarita Valley. Signal photo by Jim Holt

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SANTA CLARITA - They give coyotes a bad rap — the owls, hawks and falcons of the Santa Clarita Valley.

About half a dozen were on display at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center’s monthly presentation Sunday designed to explore the world of raptors that live among us.

The event drew more than 50 people who learned, among other things, that the beautiful hawks that glide through sunny skies and the silent owls that grace the night are also deadly predators.

“We’re going to see her take larger animals — jackrabbits regularly, rattlesnakes, some house pets unfortunately,” presenter Christopher Mowry said, indicating a red-tailed hawk named Looks Twice.

The bird lost an eye when she was hit by a car, he said. But she’s still capable of killing.

“If Looks Twice wanted to get real angry, (her handler) would be on the ground with the pressure exerted at the tiny tip of the talon,” he said.

“The red-tailed hawks don’t have the capacity to fly away with most house pets,” he said, “but would definitely consider the smaller ones.”

At one point in his talk, Mowry held out his arm and made a fist. Squeezing his fist tightly, he told the group he was exerting 15 pounds of pressure per square inch.

“A great horned owl can exert 400 psi with its talons,” he said, noting the nocturnal bird can snatch a cat or dog weighing as much as 16 pounds. Coyotes, which usually take the blame for missing pets, may not be the culprits at all, he said.

Leeann Limburg, who said she once worked as an intern at the UC Davis Raptor Center, drove from Monrovia on Sunday to hear more about raptors.

“It’s great to see people taking the time to come out here,” she said.

Likewise, Karin Benson of Topanga made the trek to learn more about the raptors she’s been watching near her home.

“We have a nesting pair of raptors that we watch with a scope,” she said.

Sunday’s talk was the latest in the center’s Community Nature Education Series. Mowry talked about raptor classification, identification, facts and management of the captive birds. November’s talk is expected to be all about bears.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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