The Conservancy has worked hard and spent money trying to improve prey production for the Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni). The hawk is one of two “primary” species covered under the HCPs. It has our attention due to diminished nest success. We don’t want that metric to decline. We need more, not fewer, chicks to fledge from each nest! And food supply is one of the best ways to accomplish that.
Seen in the associated photos here are examples of simple solutions being the best. You can see a rice farming tractor operator “stubble discing” a fallow rice field in the middle of summer. It is also in the middle of a severe drought. And on a sparse, dry, weedy fallowed rice field. Typically, this would mean that there would be a shortage of biological activity, including foraging opportunities for the hawk.
In this case, Conservancy staff counted nearly 10 Swainson’s hawks on the ground feeding on prey, and more than twice that many in the air, following the tractor, looking for prey. This has changed our thinking. Instead of rich, thick vegetation for prey production, sometimes, even these sparsely-populated weedy areas can provide abundant foraging opportunities for the Swainson’s hawk. We need to do more of this!