As early as October of this past year 2015, the Zone-tailed Hawk has begun re-appearing in Orange County. I first located one this fall on October 6 in Lake Forest however they have been seen in Rancho Santa Margarita and other local foothill areas sporadically since then. The Zone-tailed Hawk (ZTHA) have been known to commingle with Turkey Vultures when in flight to help camouflage themselves to their prey below. Though we are most familiar with Turkey Vultures, we may tend to overlook this one similar looking species. A few comparative points on the ZTHA are the large white bands on its black under tail while. Quite visible while in flight as in the images below and hence it’s name. Bear in mind the Turkey Vultures head structure overall is quite different than the Zone-tailed Hawk both from a bill standpoint and head coloration. Another good rule of thumb is the ZTHA’s typically appear here in Orange County (if at all) during fall and winter but of course anything can happen at anytime.
Here’s an image of both the Turkey Vulture and Zone-tailed Hawk for comparison purposes. Note the worn look of the ZTHA at Serrano Creek Trail (middle image) especially its left wing and tail corner. Also the male ZTHA has one wide band and one narrow band if you are able to see both. Both of these appear to be males below. Females are larger in size and have one wide band and two narrower band on its tail should you be fortunate enough to see two flying together. Additional tips welcome