The Raptors page contains 90 images of Hawks, Kestrels, Ospreys and White-Tailed Kites
taken at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge, including a few supporting images from other locations.

Click an image to open a larger version.
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Cooper’s Hawk 0502 M

A 1000 x 1590 portrait of our local female Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey, about the size of a Raven. They are skillful fliers
who hunt through the trees at high speed in their search for medium-sized birds, their favorite prey.
They have long tails and short, broad, rounded wings which give them exceptional maneuverability.

All of the landscape (horizontal) large version images linked from the thumbnails are 1500 pixels wide.
Portrait (vertical) images are 1200 pixels tall (1290 pixels with title bar). Images designated with an “M”
in the shot number are 5:4 aspect ratio, 1500 x 1290 with a title bar, or 1500 x 1200 without a title bar.
Some of the portrait images are also designated as “M”, and are 1500 pixels tall (plus the title bar).


Cooper’s Hawk 1668 M

A 1000 x 1590 portrait of a young adult male Cooper’s Hawk, taken
in the woods below the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
As with most Raptors, the female is larger and heavier than the male.


Red-Tailed Hawk 0275 M

A Light-Intermediate morph Red-Tailed Hawk soars over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

There are several subspecies of the Red-Tailed Hawk with highly variable appearance, but even
within the primary species there are three major variations in plumage and overlapping variations.
These plumage variations are called the Light, Intermediate and Dark morphs, and there are also
Light and Dark Intermediates. Light morph Harlan’s Red-Tailed Hawks can be quite pale. There
are also Rufous phase Red-Tailed Hawks with reddish-brown plumage in light and dark morphs.


Red-Tailed Hawk 0278


Red-Tailed Hawk 0281

Light and Intermediate morph Red-Tailed Hawks have a tan-orange to buff body with a light to dark reddish brown
belly band and dark underwing coverts at the leading edge of the wing (darker and broader in Intermediate morphs).
Compare the belly band and the depth of the dark area at the leading edge of the wing in this hawk and the next two.


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2781

An Intermediate Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawk in flight over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Similar in appearance to Light morph Red-Tailed Hawks, but with reddish-brown plumage,
wider, darker and more pronounced patagial (leading edge) wing and belly band markings,
the Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawk is often said to include all Intermediate morphs. Since
there are Intermediate morph Red-Tails which have brown plumage without a reddish cast,
and there are Rufous morph Red-Tails which are obviously Dark morph, I and some others
consider Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawks to include those which have the reddish cast
to their plumage, and Intermediate as a description of darker Light morph individuals.


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2785

An Intermediate juvenile Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawk over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Due to the amount of white in the streaked throat, this identification was somewhat difficult,
but the reddish-brown cast to the dark plumage seen in the better-lit images made it likely
that this is either a streaky Rufous morph juvenile or an intergrade hybrid. Harlan’s Hawks
have been known to be in California during the winter, so an intergrade hybrid is possible.


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2790

Note the color cast to the junction between the neck and right wing.

Identification of some Red-Tailed Hawks can be tricky as there is a lot of variation.
Sometimes, you have to decide that you cannot identify a particularly unusual bird.


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2792c


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2796c

Two detail crops of an Intermediate juvenile Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawk at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge
showing the white-streaked throat and reddish-brown plumage which indicate that this may be a crossbreed
between a Rufous morph Red-Tailed Hawk and a Harlan’s Hawk. This is one of those difficult identifications.


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2805


Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile X2809c

An Intermediate juvenile Rufous morph Red-Tail over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge at mid-day in late November.


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Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7498

A juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail in the long rays of the setting sun over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7501 M

The sparse patagial markings at the leading edge of the wing identify this as a Light-Intermediate morph.


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7503 M

Achieving an accurate exposure of this hawk was challenging, as the wings reflected the setting sun.


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7502


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7508

If you look carefully at the image above left you will notice that the nictating membrane is closed.

The nictating membrane is a translucent third eyelid which the bird uses to
protect and moisten the eye or remove debris while maintaining visibility.


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tail X7518-19

A juvenile Southwestern Red-Tailed Hawk in flight at sunset over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


Juvenile Southwestern Red-Tailed Hawk XXL

This 1600 x 900 version of the XXL Flight Study Composite (7500 x 4219) shows
7 images of a Light-Intermediate juvenile Southwestern Red-Tailed Hawk, patrolling
over the fields at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge just before sunset in late November.


Red-Tailed Hawk Morphs M

A larger-than-normal (1800 x 1200) preview of the SXXL (6900 x 4600) composite which
shows images of various Red-Tailed Hawk morphs with legends identifying the variations.

Red-Tailed Hawks have three variations (or morphs), the Light, Intermediate and Dark morphs.
The differences in the morphs are based upon the belly, shoulder and central wing markings and
the body color. Light and Intermediate morphs have buff to orange dark-streaked bodies and
a dark patch at the shoulder. The body streaks on the Light morph can be very light, and the
shoulder markings can be narrower. The Dark morph has a dark body and central wing.


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Kestrel X3216 M

The barred back and mottled flanks of a back-lit American Kestrel female at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Properly exposing a back-lit bird is challenging, as you want to retain saturation in the sky
and definition of shadow detail. It can be especially challenging to retain detail in the eye.

The American Kestrel (also known as the Sparrow Hawk) is America’s smallest Falcon. It is the
smallest bird of prey at about 6 to 11 inches, and hunts like the White-Tailed Kite, hovering over its
prey and diving to catch it. It can see into the ultraviolet, allowing it to track urine trails to the source.

Falcons are closely related to Parrots and Passerines (Sparrows and similar small birds), although
their activities as diurnal birds of prey make them more like the Hawks, Eagles, Kites and Harriers.
All have a sharply-hooked beak with a cere (soft structure at the base of the bill) housing the nostrils.


Kestrel HS2697


Kestrel HS2717

A juvenile Kestrel perched on a branch at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in Southern California.
Note the heavily streaked breast and flanks, the barred wings, and the bold facial stripes. Other
than the streaked breast and the bold facial stripes, the juvenile Kestrel looks similar to the female.


Kestrel HS2668 M

A molting juvenile about to become a female, taken at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge. The breast feathers
look similar to those of a female but it still retains the bold facial stripes and darker barring on the back.

The sexes look different. The male has a black and white band at the end of his tail, and black spots
on his flanks. Males have blue-gray wings, an smooth orange breast, and an off-white belly and flanks.
The male Kestrel’s back has dark, separated streaks. Females are larger than the males, with a mottled
orange breast, barred orange feathers to the edges of the wings, and a barred orange back and tail.
Males, females and juveniles all have a bluish-gray forehead and two dark vertical facial stripes.


Kestrel HS2744 M


Kestrel HS2730 M

On the left, a female Kestrel and on the right, a molting juvenile. Note the difference in contrast of
the barred back feathers, and compare the facial stripes of the adult on the left to the juvenile in 2668.


Kestrel HS3114 M

An attractive rear profile portrait of an American Kestrel female at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Kestrels have two dark spots at the nape of the neck, thought to be “false eyes” protecting it from attack.


Kestrel HS3132c


Kestrel HS3121c

In my experience, it is very unusual to have an opportunity to capture close portraits of a Kestrel,
so I took several shots to capture as many poses as possible. Note the mottled breast feathers
and barred wings that identify this as a female, and the lighter eye stripe of the fully adult bird.

Check the Falcons page in the Raptors Wildlife Study section for images of male Kestrels.


Kestrel Attitude HS3161

A female American Kestrel giving attitude at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in Southern California.


Kestrel HS3204


Kestrel HS3234

This Kestrel was obviously used to humans, as it stayed calm for an extended period,
allowing me to capture some of the best portraits I have ever gotten of a female Kestrel.


Kestrel HS3224

A classic over-the-shoulder frontal portrait of a female Kestrel.


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Osprey 0208

A Northern Osprey hunting in an overcast sky at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Ospreys are in a family and genus by themselves (Pandionidae), but they have
often been placed in the same order as Falcons by some taxonomists, and in the
same order as Eagles and Hawks by others. Some taxonomists who place the
Osprey in the order Accipitriforms with Eagles and Hawks also place it in the
family Accipitridae with Eagles, Hawks, Kites, Harriers and Vultures. The
controversy is ongoing and has contributed to the variation in common
names for this raptor (such as fish eagle, fish hawk, sea hawk, etc.).


Osprey Hunting X5203


Osprey Hunting X5206

The Osprey is a large fish hawk, which dives on its prey and carries it to a nearby tree to eat.
As the common name suggests, the Osprey feeds primarily on fish, and is a consummate hunter.


Osprey 0403

A Northern Osprey hunting in the skies over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Ospreys are superb anglers, capturing a fish on at least 25% of their dives (as high as 70%).


Osprey Hunting 0214

A Northern Osprey hunting in the skies over Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

Ospreys fly with slow, steady wingbeats on slightly bent wings or soar in
circles over shallow water looking for prey. Unlike Bald Eagles, which pluck
their prey from just below the surface, Osprey can dive deeper to capture prey,
and can close their specially-adapted nostrils to keep water out during a dive.


Osprey Hunting 0220

An Osprey soaring on slightly bent wings, scooping air for greater lift.


Osprey Hunting 0224


Osprey Hunting 0231

Ospreys are white with brown streaks and bars below and are all brown above,
with a brown eye mask reaching to the neck. They are lighter than most raptors.


Osprey Hunting 0229

Properly exposing a back-lit Osprey at mid-day can be challenging, as you need to balance
overexposure of the sky and highlighted areas while revealing shaded feather detail and the eye.


Osprey Hunting 0241


Osprey Hunting 0242

An Osprey looking up during its flight back to the starting point for another sweep of the area.

Note the kinked wings on the image above right. The drooping position of the wingtips is similar
to that of a gull, and the extremely flexible joints of the Osprey allow it to use a wing to shade its eyes
when flying directly into the sun. Its eyes are specially adapted to allow it to see fish below the surface.


Osprey Hunting 1345

A Northern Osprey soaring directly toward the viewer at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

The Northern Osprey is a conservation success story. From the 1950s to the 1970s Osprey populations
crashed due to widespread use of DDT pesticides, which poisoned the birds and thinned the eggshells,
preventing the hatching of young birds. In some areas, populations dwindled to 10% of the previous level.
Studies of the drastic reduction in the Osprey populations provided support for legal arguments against
the use of persistent pesticides, and contributed to the ban of DDT in 1972. The Osprey population
rebounded, although there are still issues caused by tree removals and shoreline development.


Osprey Hunting 1346


Osprey Hunting 1348

An Osprey beginning the turn for its sweep across the sky over the pond at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


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White-Tailed Kites X2820 M


White-Tailed Kites X2821 M

A mated pair of Kites perched in a tree, taken at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge at mid-day.


White-Tailed Kite 6902c

An Adult male White-Tailed Kite atop a branch at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

White-Tailed Kites are in the same family as Hawks, Eagles and Harriers (Accipitridae).


White-Tailed Kite Ethereal Landing X2902 M

Taken early in the morning on a day when I was experimenting with soft-focus techniques,
a White-Tailed Kite drops in for a landing near its mate in a bush at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.
The exposure in this image was pushed up 1.3 stops in-camera, yielding a very slow shutter speed
(1/90 second at f/5.6, 700mm), accentuating movement of the wings and adding to the ethereal effect.


White-Tailed Kite Dawn Flight X2919


White-Tailed Kite Morning Flight HS2917

White-Tailed Kites in flight at early and mid-morning in winter, taken at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.

White-Tailed Kites are small birds of prey which were nearly hunted to extinction in North America by
farmers who thought they threatened chickens, although Kites mostly eat rodents, lizards and insects.
They have made a comeback in California and Texas, although they are rare outside of a few areas.
Mature birds are mostly white, with dark gray wingtips and shoulders. Juveniles have a russet-brown
collar and streaks on their breast. They typically patrol over marshes, scrub and grasslands looking
for rodents, and can often be seen hovering over an area when they see something of interest.


White-Tailed Kite X3031

A White-Tailed Kite at the end of a hovering hunting sequence, prior to leaving the area.

White-Tailed Kites dangle their feet in flight while hunting, although they retract them for level flight.
While hunting, they exhibit a graceful, buoyant hovering flight. The toy kite was named for these birds.


White-Tailed Kite X3035

A White-Tailed Kite leaving the area in level flight at the end of an unsuccessful hunting sequence.


White-Tailed Kite Hovering

A White-Tailed Kite hovering over a field at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge, searching for prey.

White-Tailed Kites prefer grasslands, marshes, lightly wooded scrub and other open land.
They primarily eat mice and other rodents, but occasionally take a bird, reptile or amphibian.


White-Tailed Kite Hovering Sequence SXL

A 1500 x 1190 preview of the SXL composite (3610 x 2769) showing a hovering flight sequence.

White-Tailed Kites dangle their feet in flight while hunting, although they retract them for level flight.
When hunting, White-Tailed Kites soar, flap and hover over an area, then dive down on their prey.


White-Tailed Kite Morning Flight X3051


White-Tailed Kite Morning Flight X3055

A White-Tailed Kite in flight, mid-morning at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


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White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by X3014 M

The female in this pair of White-Tailed Kites seems to enjoy harassing the male with close, hovering
fly-bys. Other incidents were captured later in the day and six weeks later (both sequences are shown
further down this page). The images in this series were underexposed one stop to yield a higher shutter
speed (1/640 sec. at f/5.6) to stop the motion of the wings, creating a different look for these images.


White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by X3015


White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by X3016

A female White-Tailed Kite harasses her mate in a close, hovering fly-by at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by X3018


White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by X3019

The male seems used to this behavior, but as can be seen in the final image in the sequence
in the composite image below, he does scream at his mate just as she comes in for a landing.


White-Tailed Kites Ethereal Fly-by SXL

A 1500 x 1325 version of the SXL Composite (4330 x 3725) of a female White-Tailed Kite
who is harassing her mate in a fly-by, taken early in the morning using a soft-focus technique.


White-Tailed Kite Pointillism X3077


White-Tailed Kite Pointillism X3080

Taken during a day which was spent experimenting with soft-focus techniques, a White-Tailed Kite flies past a
colorful stand of trees in late November at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge. Slightly defocusing the Kite and radically
defocusing the background foliage creates an Impressionist effect similar to that of Monet and Renoir paintings.


White-Tailed Kite Pointillism X3079

Pointillism is an artistic painting technique which was developed as an offshoot of Impressionism in
the late 1880s by Seurat and Signac, and was also used by van Gogh and Pissarro. Small dots of color
are applied to the canvas in patterns to form an image, similar to the way that computer printers, televisions
and monitors create color from dots of ink or pixels (and incidentally the way that digital images are created).


White-Tailed Kite Impressionism X3214 M

A White-Tailed Kite perches on a shaded bush at mid-day.

This image was also taken during the experiments with soft-focus techniques.


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White-Tailed Kites Bush Confrontation X3106 M


White-Tailed Kites Bush Confrontation X3107 M

The female White-Tailed Kite approaches the male for another confrontation while perched in a bush,
but this time the male wants to have nothing to do with it and immediately takes off as the female flies by.


White-Tailed Kites Bush Takeoff X3109 M


White-Tailed Kites Bush Takeoff X3111 M

Note the wing position on the male in the left image, with the wings fully extended forward and out.


White-Tailed Kite Bush Landing X3117 M


White-Tailed Kite Bush Landing X3118 M


White-Tailed Kite Female HS6905

A portrait of the female White-Tailed Kite perched on a branch after another harassing fly-by,
taken at Sepulveda six weeks later in the late afternoon. The fly-by sequence is shown below.


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6831 M

The male White-Tailed Kite perched on a branch at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in the late afternoon.


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6865c


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6869c


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6875c

The male turns his head for a classic Raptor twisted portrait.


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6880 M

Note the extreme flexibility of the neck shown in these portraits of a male White-Tailed Kite.


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White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6885 M

Not one to waste a perfect opportunity, the female approaches for a hovering fly-by.


White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6887 M


White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6888 M

The female hangs over the male’s left shoulder, exhibiting her flying skill.


White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6888c

A detail crop of the image above right, depicting a female White-Tailed Kite during
a harassing fly-by of her mate late on a January afternoon at Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge.


White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6889c

The male screams at the female as she hovers alongside...


White-Tailed Kite Fly-by HS6890 M

... and the female flies away to perch on a nearby branch (shown in image 6905 further above).


White-Tailed Kite Male HS6899c

The male looks at the photographer as if to say:

“Can you believe what I have to put up with? She does this all the time”.


White-Tailed Kite Hovering Fly-by XXL

A 1500 x 1075 version of the XXL Composite image (5923 x 4072) showing a female White-Tailed Kite
harassing her mate in a fly-by taken late in the afternoon, composed of six square aspect-ratio images.

There is also an SXL version available (4005 x 3530) which shows the four corner images.


Raptor Portraits SXXL
A 1547 x 1200 version of the SXXL Composite (6511 x 5050).

Eagles and Hawks

Steller's Sea Eagle; Cooper's Hawk; Bald Eagle; Golden Eagle;
Dark Rufous Morph Red-Tail Juvenile; Intermediate Morph Red-Tail;
Light Morph Red-Tail Juvenile; Light Morph Ferruginous Hawk.


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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Raptors Wildlife Study section.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Coots and Grebes page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Cormorants page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Ducks and Geese page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Egrets and Herons page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Hummingbirds page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Loons page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Pelicans page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Phoebes and Blackbirds page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Assorted Wildlife page.