by Dan Weisz

Predators are animals that prey on other animals.  Here are some predators I’ve run across over the past a few weeks- all of these are present in the Catalina Foothills but these shots were taken around town:

Two juvenile Great Horned Owls mimic each others pose under the ceiling of the AVA Amphitheater.  The coloring makes this photo look like a painting.  Great Horned Owls are the apex predators of the night sky.  Soon these youngsters will be as capable hunters as their parents are.

A close-up of one owl:

Dragonflies and damselflies are equally proficient predators.  Here, a Rambur’s Forktail damselfly is enjoying dining on a Familiar Bluet, also a damselfly, on a local golf course.  You can see that it’s already digested the insides of the head of its prey and is working on the body now.

Common Ravens are omnivorous, eating both ‘plants’ and ‘animals’.  But they are definitely opportunistic and predatory.  Here, the Raven is silhouetted near its nest in a eucalyptus tree at Agua Caliente Park.

A Juvenile Harris’s Hawk rests on one foot along River Road.  Perhaps it is waiting for its parent to return with a meal.  This hawk will lose it’s vertical striping and turn uniformly dark  as an adult after one or two years.  It already has the telltale white-tipped tail and white rump of a Harris’s Hawk.

A female first-year Cooper’s Hawk at Sweetwater Wetlands is molting into her adult plumage.  You can see her grey feathers growing in, especially at her tail where the “old” brown tail feathers are being replaced by bright new, banded gray and black ones.

A beautifully colored predator with one of the most painful stings in the world is this Tarantula Hawk.  This spider wasp was hunting for tarantulas at Sweetwater Wetlands.  She will sting a spider near a leg base paralyzing it, drag it into a burrow, and then lay a single egg on the living but limp victim.  When the egg hatches, the larva consumes the living, immobile spider and then pupates.

Owls cannot turn their heads around completely, it just seems like they can.  They can turn their heads 270° in either direction.  Additionally, they have 14 vertebrae in their necks while we humans only have 7.  And, the holes in their neck bones are about ten times larger than their arteries, so they do not cut off the blood supply to their brain when they turn their heads.  Here’s looking at you!