ca rAPTOR cENTER nEWS Spring 2019

(Cover photo credit: Ryan Bourbour)


Dear Friends of the California Raptor Center,

Springtime is finally here and the annual influx of baby raptors into our nursery is also finally starting to kick into gear! The first chicks into the nursery each spring are usually barn owls, and so we dedicate much of this newsletter to this amazing species.

An increase in rodent populations in early spring stimulates local barn owls to begin nesting; even in the cooler parts of their range two clutches of chicks are often raised each year. Because of the record amount of rain we received this year in Northern CA, it is likely the small mammal population took time to rebound to normal populations numbers, thus barn owl nesting has been slightly later than we usually see at the Center. Barn owls can nest in almost any niche- in holes in trees, cliff ledges and crevices, caves, burrows in river banks, in the top of palm trees, and in many kinds of human structures, including barn lofts, church steeples, houses, nest boxes, haystacks, and even drive-in movie screens!

Did you know that having a pair of barn owls nest on your property can reduce rodent populations substantially? A single barn owl can consume up to 1,500 rats, mice, voles and gophers per year, and a family of barn owls can consume 25 rodents per night! This is an incredibly easy and natural way to manage rodent populations on your property. How do you attract barn owls to your property? Build a nest box! Just follow our simple instructions on our website to build one of your own this year! Don’t fret if they do not use it the first year- they will come!

Many of our local friends in the wine industry have heeded this advice already and are utilizing nest boxes as an alternative to using toxic rodenticides on their properties. Rodenticides not only kill the rodents but unfortunately also secondarily kill animals such as birds of prey that eat the rodents. Currently AB #1788, a complete ban on the use of these rodenticides, is making its way through the CA legislature. The CA Raptor Center has joined with UC Davis graduate students Ryan Bourbour, Breanna Martinico, and Emily Phillips and with Drs. Josh Hull and Sara Kross to investigate the prevalence of rodenticide exposure and non-lethal effects in adult and nestling barn owls in agricultural settings in the region. Breanna and Emily have placed almost 300 barn owl boxes in and around the Napa region to evaluate whether barn owls are feeding their offspring rodents that have consumed these poisons. We are looking for non-invasive ways to evaluate these rodenticides through owl pellets inside the barn owl boxes. Breanna Martinico and her team and Raptors Are The Solution will be at our Spring Open House this Saturday, May 4 from 9 AM to 3 PM to discuss with you how this work can reduce the need for these harmful chemicals in our environment.

This newsletter we highlight Elana, one of our White-tailed kites. Her name derives for the scientific name of white-tailed kites, Elanus leucurus. Elana is an adult white-tailed kite that was brought to us as a chick in 2014 after she had fallen from her nest. She was uninjured, but had been imprinted on humans by the time she reached us and so could not be released. At five years of age, her incredible red eyes and elegant white, black and grey plumage is fully matured. Look for her story here- and somewhere else within this newsletter! Look for the red eyes…….

Additionally, we cast a spotlight on star volunteer Calvin Proctor, whose great attitude and willingness to help have made him a stellar addition to our volunteer team.

This month the entire family at the School of Veterinary Medicine and the California Raptor Center are mourning the loss of our former director, Dr. Dale Brooks. Dr. Brooks was integral in the early facilities – making enclosures for the birds from old enclosures and found objects donated to the Center. He was also the first Director to open the Center and provide educational programs to the general public. He loved gardening and established the amazing succulent garden in the front of the Center, which will now be known as the Dale Brooks Memorial Succulent Garden. The CRC family extends our heartfelt condolences to the Brooks family for their loss of a scientist, husband, father and friend.

We hope to see you all at the Spring Open House event this Saturday, May 4 from 9 AM to 3 PM!


Director, California Raptor Center


A mature, female barn owl was brought to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), University of CA, Davis with wounds on both of her eyes and her head, and with air under her skin (“subcutaneous emphysema”). These types of wounds are very common with trauma-but we could not ascertain how this barn owl got the wounds.


Birds of prey offer natural pest control services in human dominated landscapes, especially on farms, where recruiting raptors is often a key commponent of sustainable agriculture. Barn owls (Tyto alba) are often recruited to nest boxes installed by growers as part of an integrated pest management framework. However, application of anticoagulant rodenticides is also a component of farming operations, which may limmit the contributions provided by raptors due to secondary rodenticide poisoning.

A team comprised of UC Davis graduate students, Ryan Bourbour, Breanna Martinico, and Emily Phillips, and Dr. Joshua Hull in collaboration with Dr. Sara Kross from Columbia University, are investigating the prevalence of rodenticide exposure and non-lethal effects in adult and nestling barn owls in agricultural settings.


Elana, the White-Tailed Kite (photo by CRC volunteer Billy Thein)

Elana, a white-tailed kite, was brought to us as a young bird in 2014 by a Good Samaritan after she had fallen out of her nest. She was uninjured, but she had been imprinted on humans and so could not be released.

For some months, Elana shared an enclosure with an adult kite in order to keep her calm. Now, at age three, she shares space with another young kite imprint, brought to us last year. Elana was trained as an "Education Ambassador," and comes out on the glove at in-house events, but since she has developed a mild heart murmur, she does not travel to schools and libraries.


Calvin Proctor with Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator Julie Cotton (left) and Whistler the Swainson's hawk on the glove

Raptor rehabilitation may seem like an unusual pursuit for a student majoring in music, but Calvin Proctor always had a love for animals. When he’s not in class or performing at the Ann E. Pitzer Center on campus (Calvin plays violin), the third-year UC Davis student seeks out opportunities to help local wildlife and get involved in their care. Last spring Calvin interned for the Putah Creek Nestbox Highway project through the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife & Fish Biology. He participated in field work involving active habitat restoration and nest box monitoring. He joined the CRC volunteer team in fall quarter 2017 to gain more hands-on experience with wildlife rehabilitation.


The entire CA Raptor Center family is mourning the recent passing of Dr. Dale Brooks, DVM ’59, Director of the CRC from 1990-1998. Dr. Brooks was integral in developing new enclosures from found objects and from old enclosures found around campus and donated to the Center. He was also the first Director to open the Center and provide educational programs to the general public. His research advanced raptor medicine while providing training opportunities for students. The CRC family sends our heartfelt condolences to his wife Mary and the entire Brooks family during this time.

Dale Brooks, former director of the California Raptor Center

limited edition t-shirt campaign returns

We are excited to announce that FLOAT (For Love of All Things) will be designing a brand new limited-edition California Raptor Center t-shirt. $8 from every item with this design sold during May 27-June 3 will be donated to the California Raptor Center. In keeping with the popular Fillmore concert poster style, this year's design will feature one of our resident raptors (can you guess who?).

upcoming events

Spring Open House: May 4

FLOAT t-shirt campaign: May 27-June 3

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