Appreciating the Amazing Birds of the Sacramento Valley

By Jim Morris

If you spend any time in rice country, it won’t take long to find a raptor. There are Red-tailed Hawks perched on a variety of things, keeping watch for their next meal. Harriers canvas rice fields looking for something scurrying along, Kites hover and plunge and, in winter, Bald Eagles sidle up to ducks and geese. All told, there are more than a dozen raptor species in rice fields, each doing their part in this diverse ecosystem.

Son RJ and I recently went to the California Raptor Center at UC Davis for their fall open house. It was good to see kids and adults alike asking questions about what these birds of prey eat, their characteristics and habitat. The raptor center provides a home for abandoned or injured raptors. Some are rehabilitated, while others unable to be returned to the wild spend their days with expert care.

It’s hard to determine a favorite, but I was really improved with Eliza the White-tailed Kite. These birds are really shy, so being a few feet away from one was a rare and wonderful experience!

It was also a treat to see Kalli the American Kestrel, the smallest falcon species in the United States. It appears Kalli was being kept as a pet and suffered from nutritional deficiencies. Her health has improved dramatically since getting proper care.

The raptor center has a free open house each spring and fall. It’s well worth a visit to visit with and learn more about a wonderful part of our valley!






Jim Morris is Communications Manager for the California Rice Commission. Jim has worked in communications for more than 20 years. When he’s not on the job, he enjoys his family, faith, football, outrageous monster stories and running marathons.