Common Kestrel

Name Meaning:  Falcon

Geologic Era: Pleistocene

Location Found:  La Brea Tar Pits, California

Estimated Range:  Unknown

Estimated Size:  Unknown, but probably small

Extinction Date:  Unknown (possibly still extant depending on species)

This La Brea specimen is a claw from a bird of prey.  Several falcon-like species existed (and still exist) in this area, so an exact species identification is next to impossible to determine.  It is not a large claw, so I would guess that the bird it came from was relatively small as well.  The claw still has some residual tarry matrix clinging to its surface.

The Rancho La Brea tar pits were (and still are) a natural predator trap.  A thin layer of water covers the tar, giving the false impression of a pond.  Animals would then be lured there to drink, and would often become stuck in the tar.  This would often attract predatory animals, such as wolves, saber tooth cats, and birds of prey looking for an easy meal.  These predators in turn would also become mired in the tar.  This is probably what happened to this small predatory bird.  It probably landed on a dead or dying animal trapped in the tar, and got a little too close itself.  An animal trapped in the tar would struggle until it exhausted itself, then would suffocate in the tar.  

Image Credits:

Common Kestrel: By sannse – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Saperaud., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=453735