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Landmarks Focus: Raptor Monitoring

PictureRed-tailed Hawk chick in the nest

Many of the raptors seen throughout the developed parts of Orange County were likely born and raised on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.  With plenty of quiet places to nest, and an abundance of food in the springtime, it’s no wonder many raptors decide to raise their young here.  However, nesting season can be a stressful time for raptor families, and they are easily spooked by human activity. 

In order to minimize our impact on the raptors, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy teams up annually with OC Parks, the City of Irvine, and the City of Newport Beach to monitor nesting sites so we can make informed decisions regarding activities on the land.  Conservancy staff work to locate the nests, assign each nest an ID number, and then assign those ID numbers to trained volunteers for monitoring on the land every few weeks throughout the season.

Raptor monitoring volunteers attend a training session to learn professional monitoring practices to avoid flushing birds from their nests or disturbing them in any way. Once volunteers are trained and have received an assigned nest, they begin the monitoring visits and conduct surveys by foot using binoculars or spotting scopes. The volunteers report back to Conservancy staff on a wide range of information, including the number of chicks, rearing behavior, and the stage of development.  The information that the volunteers provide helps inform Conservancy staff regarding upcoming activities in the areas surrounding the nests.  Often times activities will be altered, or even cancelled, in order to make sure participants don’t disturb a nest site.

“Managing nesting hawks and owls is a perfect example of how IRC uses science to carefully balance public access and resource protection. Volunteers play a crucial role by helping identify and monitor nests. When we find an active nest too close to a trail, we may close the trail temporarily or post signs to minimize disturbance to the hawks and their babies. This helps make sure that these majestic birds will be around for everyone to enjoy for generations to come,” said Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director.

If you are interested in learning how you can become an IRC certified volunteer so you can participate in next year’s raptor monitoring program, go to and fill out an interest form today!