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Rare Raptors

Northern Goshawk
(Accipiter gentilis)

Northern Goshawk

©Joe Naudzunas 2007

Juvenile Northern Goshawk sighted November 2, 2007 from Hawk Hill.


Crested Caracara
(Caracara plancus)

Crested Caracara

©Joe Medley 2005

Joe Medley 2005 GGRO Intern Joe Medley walked in the office yesterday (August3, 2005) with a Crested Caracara on his digital camera. Joe said he'd photographed it above Stinson Beach the night before. Uh-huh, yeah, right, was my reaction. But he seemed earnest. About 12 noon that day Hawkwatcher Cathy Bell ran into the office yelling: "CARACARA!" and dang, did the building empty fast. At least seven of us stood in the parking lot, binoculars at the ready. Five minutes. Ten minutes. No caracara. Adrenaline waned. Cathy started filling out her Rare Bird Form, and then there was another yell - CARACARA! - this time it flew over Building 1064.

Outside, near the Headlands Institute campus, an adult caracara (clear throat, barred upper breast, red face) flew out from a grassy hill in perfect view. Seven of us got a perfect view. It flew out over Rodeo Lagoon, then disappeared around a corner heading east. The interns monitored the bird moving around the east end of Rodeo Lagoon off and on for the next hour. The latest sighting was around 230 pm. No sightings today. Fly to the top of the page Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) Crested Caracara ©Joe Medley 2005 Fly to the top of the page Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) Crested

Crested Caracara
(Caracara plancus)

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

©Joe Medley 2005

Black Hawk in Stockton, California

©Susan Culliney 2005

Black Hawks (Buteogallus anthracinus) are not common in California. They are much more common in Arizona and Mexico yet this one made it's way to central California.

©Susan Culliney 2005

©Susan Culliney 2005

This is the area where the Black Hawk was seen.

Leucistic Turkey Vulture

LeucisticTurkey Vulture

©Simone Whitecloud 2002

After a four month disappearance, Moby Vulture seems to have re-emerged in Merced County, California. Here is the account from GGRO Intern Jeff Birek on Sunday August 24th, 2003:

I was driving east on highway 152 at 10:40 am. I saw the leucistic TV at the 32 mile-marker with 4 other TVs. This is a few miles west of San Luis Reservoir. It was in a full soar and at the bottom of the kettle. I looked at it for about 15 seconds but couldn't stop. Its flight feathers glowed yellow-white when they were backlit and the overall underside of the bird was creamy-eggshell colored. It teetered and looked like a Turkey Vulture otherwise.

A Nearly White Turkey Vulture in Southern Marin!
Click here for video of the Leucistic Turkey Vulture - High Quality (Cable or DSL).

Click here for video of the Leucistic Turkey Vulture - (faster download for phone modems).

Nearly White Vulture in the San Francisco Bay Area! From September 2002 into March 2003, we at the GGRO and in the SF Bay Area birding community have been lucky to share our skies with a nearly white Turkey Vulture. Most of the sightings (listed below) have been in the southern Marin peninsula, but this handsome bird has made some forays into the North Bay and outer East Bay regions as well. The vulture has a light red head and white bill. Its overall plumage color is an extremely light camel-brown, particularly on the body, back, tail, and secondary flight feathers and secondary coverts. The outer wings, primaries and primary coverts, appear to be pure white both dorsal and ventral. The ventral cast appears to be a touch darker than the dorsal. From the earliest we at the GGRO heard of this bird, here are the sightings:

1. GGRO bander and raptor ecologist Mark Fenn sees a white vulture 9/5/02 with a kettle of 32 TVs at the northeast end of the Richardson Bay Bridge in Mill Valley.

2. Seen 9/8/02 by Barbara Samuelson and Greg Gothard on the ridge southeast of Muir Woods flying with other TVs, generally heading toward Muir Beach.

3. Seen 9/29/02 by Steve Bauer and other GGRO hawkwatchers from 930 to 940 am, flying along Wolfback Ridge above Sausalito with other TVs, generally heading west toward the Vortak.

4. Seen 10/12/02 by Bauer, Allen Fish, Tim Behr, and other GGRO hawkwatchers between 1100 and 1300, flying within Rodeo Valley from as far west as Rodeo Pond to as far east as the Morningsun Trail above Sausalito. It was flying with other TVs and generally stayed lower than the summit of Hawk Hill. GGRO Intern Simone Whitecloud was able to get a series of digital photos of the bird from below in Rodeo Valley. Photo at the top of the page.

5. Seen 10/18/02 by Tim Behr, Kim Meyer, and other GGRO hawkwatchers at approximately 1215, flying east of Slacker Hill, and appearing to head farther east.

6. Moby Vulture, as she is known at the GGRO, made eight appearances in total at Hawk Hill during our 2002 season: Sept 29, Oct 12, Oct 18, Nov 2, Nov 3, Nov 24, Dec 5, and DEC 8. Moby served as a kind of natural experiment for us, suggesting an answer to the question that won't go away, how many times have you counted that bird?

Below are ongoing sightings, away from Hawk Hill, of the White Vulture through the 2002-2003 fall and winter. Many thanks to the observers who continue to call in reports of this stunning vulture.

7. Seen 10/19/02 at 7 am by Josh Mooney while birding the NW edge of Bolinas Lagoon. It was with 8 other TVs, and perched high in a cypress near the north side of the Olema-Bolinas Rd near the trailhead into the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve.

8. Seen 10/29/02 from 12 noon to 1230 pm by Mary Anne Flett, Max Briar, Rich Stallcup, and others at Muir Beach parking lot. The white TV was flying along the ridges to the east and SE of the lot, then later perched on a Coyote Bush.

9. Seen 11/05/02 by Dave MacKenzie perched in a cypress near Muir Beach. Dave got some wonderful close-up footage of Moby that we hope to have up on the website soon.

10. Seen 11/11/02 by Julia Berger, Lorrie Gallagher, and Isabella Kirkland in the Hills from Green Gulch to the Muir Woods area, from 1 to 2 PM

11. Seen 11/17/02 by Peter Linsley feeding on something at Muir Beach parking lot with several other TVs.

12. Seen 11/24/02 by Scott Sender and Colleen Lenihan around 3 PM above a ravine just south of Hope Cottage near Muir Beach.

13. Seen 12/6/02 by Ben Lavender and Allen Fish low over Ft Cronkhite, Marin Headlands, 1215 to 1230 PM

14. Seen midday 12/8/02 by Ryan Phelan as she was doing the backstroke at the Harbor Point Pool at Strawberry Point near Richardson Bay, Mill Valley.

15. Seen 12/12/02 by Ken Magoon and Frank Rodriques circling with other TVs above Kirby Cove in the Marin Headlands around noon. Quoting Ken: 'I noticed that it had faintish grayish semicircular markings on its upper back between the wings. In the sunlight, its shoulder and chest feathers had lit a golden hew, similar to my golden retriever Gilda, who was with us.'

16. Seen in am of 12/15/02 by William Legge in the Marin Headlands, attracted by a washed-up seal.

17. Seen 12/16/02 by David Jesus while banding for GGRO in the Marin Headlands, over Rodeo Valley.

18. Seen 12/18/02 by Buzz Hull while banding for GGRO in the Marin Headlands, over Rodeo Valley.

19. Seen 12/22/02 by William Legge in the early am soaring low over Highway 101 between Sausalito and Marin City.

20. Seen on the morning of 12/28/02 by William Legge in the Marin Headlands during the Southern Marin Christmas Bird Count.

21. Seen on the morning of 12/29/02 by William Legge in the Marin Headlands.

22. Seen 12/31/02 by Gary Scheppke in Tennessee Valley.

23. Seen 1/3/03 by David Gowen just north of Lake Temescal near Oakland at noon.

24. Seen by Terry Baker and spouse 1/8/03 at Deer Island (Marin Co. Open Space District) near Novato.

25. Seen 1/25/03 by Doug Herr from the hill one cove north of Tennessee Cove for up to 10 minutes.

26. Seen 1/26/03 by Bill Keener and Nance Becker one mile south of Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon. Bill and Nance watched the bird fly with four other TV's out over Belvedere.

27. Seen 2/11/03 by Kathleen DiMarco with about 12 vultures fence sitting between houses in Novato.

28. Seen 2/14/03 by Karen Rippens flying west across 101 at Sir Francis Drake in Corte Madera.

29. Seen 3/7/03 by David Gowen at the south end of Mt. Diablo at 1045 am with 4 or 5 other TVs.


Many thanks to all of you who have sent or called in reports. We'd be happy to get more photos as well. If other California birdspotters happen to note a whitish Turkey Vulture in their area, we would love to hear about it. Send time, place, and descriptions to afish@parksconservancy.org. Maybe we'll be able to follow the movements of this unusual bird. At the least, we'll continue to report its whereabouts here.

Thanks to Paul Jones -- with apologies to Melville -- for the monologue below:

"Call me E-mail. I have been a lookin'for this bird for decades,

laddies. One day havin' spotted this albinistic behemoth winging it's

way across the bay, I went after him in my whaler. Gaining the more

open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little Selkie (which was

my barkie at the time) tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young

colt his snorting. How I snuffed that Tartar air! - how I spurned that

turnpike earth! - that common highway all over dented with the marks of

slavish heels and hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity

of the sea which will permit no records.


Alas, there was no record of Whulture, which is what I have taken to

name my nemesis, the white vulture. Now I am planning on writing a

novel of my pursuit, and I will keep you posted on my next installment.

But for now, I bid you adieu, pray you keep your bleedin' eyes open for

this winged manifestation of wickedness itself,

and keep your harpoons sharp."

As far as what we would call this individual, we lean toward calling it a "leucistic"(lew-sis-tik) Turkey Vulture. A pure albino would not have the very light brown tones this bird shows, and a partial albino would show a mix of normal-colored feathers with some pure whites. Also, Bill Clark shows a photo of a similarly lightened form of adult Bald Eagle, which he refers to as a 'dilute.' See p. 144 in the 2nd edition of Hawks of North America by Clark and Wheeler (2000).

In response to an email from GGRO Hawkwatcher JJ Harris, Bill Kohlmoos of the Turkey Vulture Society (http://www.accutek.com/vulture/facts.htm) says that he's gotten word of four albino TV's in the past decade.

Allen Fish, GGRO Director -- 3/11/03

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Contact the GGRO:

Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
Building 201, Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA 94123

(415) 331-0730

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