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Urban Wilderness

December 27, 1987

We are fortunate enough at work to have a large window to look out of, north to the Civic Center and a broad expanse of sky above it. There we have seen over the years large birds--sometimes singly, often in pairs--soaring on currents of air, with only an occasional flap of the wing.

They looked to us like red-tailed hawks, but we didn't know if there could be red-tailed hawks over downtown Los Angeles, and we weren't sure of our powers of identification, so we called the Audubon Society of Los Angeles.

"Yes, they probably are red-tailed hawks," Olga Clarke of the society told us. "They are the most common hawk in Southern California. They are larger than a crow, and they always have a dark cowl--a dark head and neck. They go all over the place, riding to air currents."

Clarke explained that the hawks are especially active now, for the breeding season is under way. The red-tails eat mice, snakes, lizards--creatures in abundance in this vast yet semi-sylvan metropolis of ours. Another hawk you might see, she said, less common than the red-tailed, is the merlin, or sparrow hawk. It is smaller than a crow, and catches and eats other birds.

"Birdwatching is a nice pastime," Clarke said. "It makes the rest of the world seem a little easier somehow."

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