Name this raptor UPDATED with photos

A family of 4 or 5 raptors has nested in Tahoe Park above the playground, and I need help identifying them. I’ll have to go back with a better camera, but in the meantime if anyone who has been there recently can shed some light, my kids and I would be grateful. All I know is it is not a red tailed hawk; we see enough of those to spot them. It is a small raptor with a white belly and grey back and hood, and a striped tail. I have concluded that they are Merlins, a small falcon breed that apparently is becoming common in urban areas. Whatever they are, they are neat! Today we found a bird carcass below the nest; I imagine one of them fell and died and stray dogs ate it? Or perhaps they killed and ate a pigeon–would birds do that?

UPDATE Monday 1:00 PM: Mrs Cool and the kids snapped some awesome photos today, including some that add an air of mystery to the proceedings.

Here is a great shot of two of the birds:

Here is one highlighting the tail feathers:

And here is where things get interesting. Another carcass was discovered, and this one was tagged! “NCRC 2011” I believe.

What say you, raptor enthusiasts?

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Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

9 thoughts on “Name this raptor UPDATED with photos”

  1. Oh my gosh I kid you not at first I read, “whatever they are, they are meat!” and I was like, Whaaaaaa? But then I re-read and I agree now. Maybe someone at the Sacramento Zoo can confirm the breed.

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    1. I’m pretty sure these are Peregrine Falcons. They are the type of bird that eats other birds, and the park is basically filled with bird carcasses.

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  2. Bird carcasses make for the best fun when tied to a string and/or a kite (“What is that attached to your kite? A bird- I’m trying to teach him to fly.”). Glad I no longer have to find a carcass before going to the park now.

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  3. Merlin isn’t a bad guess, but that appears to be a family of Cooper’s hawks! There’s a pair at 22nd and H that have successfully fledged 2-4 young each year for the past few years. They leave plucked and decapitated presents on the sidewalk as well. 🙂

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    1. Ooh that looks right! I knew they didn’t look like the red tailed hawks we see so often in the area but the cooper’s hawks photos look just right. Thanks!

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