Say that 5 times really fast!!
Factoid: The oldest known Cooper’s Hawk was 20 years, 4 months old. I’ve learned quite a lot about this predator, unfortunately first-hand. That said, the Cooper’s Hawk can come across as a complete idiot, a goofball… looks harmless here, right?
But the facts are this: 1) These hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. 2) Putting out seed for birds in your backyard raises the chance the Cooper’s Hawk will be attracted. Catching smaller birds is just doing what comes naturally for this hawk, but I would have preferred not to share the responsibility for the death. 3) A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. They hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
I hadn’t thought of that. The birdbath was up and to the left (note puddles) – one frightened bird hit our window which startled me enough to get up to make sure it was ok (it was; it just wanted out of there – fast!). Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. Not sure if the hawk snatched the bird from the bath first; I just saw the death squeeze. Knocking on the window didn’t discourage it, nor did I believe if I ran out the back door that it would simply let go and fly off. As a photographer, I kept shooting. It tears me up (hmm – tears as in torn, or tears as in cry), but I captured something I hope to never see again. It’s one thing to see a bird of prey with a mouse or chipmunk, but a songbird playing in our birdbath not 6 feet away?
After momentarily standing post, the hawk did a rapid about-face and skirted about 3 feet to the tarp-covered wood pile, chasing something fleeing for its life into thick ground cover underneath. As you scroll through these, apparently the camera noise was a distraction – its mission to capture the prey, then glares at me for seconds, and loses the trail while looking up, down, left, right…
Cooper’s hawks breed in deep forests. During migration, they can be seen high in the sky, migrating along ridgelines. During the nonbreeding season they hunt small mammals and birds along forest edges. Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban/suburban sights (i.e. our backyard). Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat, forests.
Part 3 on the way…
This hawk series is being presented in 3 parts, not only to hopefully keep your interest piqued, but also allow it to build up and make it easier for me to get to the 3rd post.
Pulling into the driveway after running some errands, I saw this Cooper’s Hawk at the wood pile. Being ever so quiet getting out of the car, I left the door open so the hawk wouldn’t see me, snuck quietly into the house, attached the zoom lens to the camera, came back out and hid behind/around the car to capture these shots. The hawk clearly had it’s eyes on and was ever so patient waiting for a mouse or chipmunk to pop out from under the wood pile and ivy undergrowth.
Upon further investigation, I discovered the Cooper’s Hawk is among the bird world’s most skillful fliers that can tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other small mammals such as mice or chipmunks. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge, or, look for this hawk to fly with a flap-flap-glide pattern typical of accipiters*. Even when crossing large open areas they rarely flap continuously. Another attack maneuver is to fly fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side. Wooded habitats range from deep forests to leafy subdivisions and backyards.
*Accipiter - any of a genus of medium-sized forest-inhabiting hawks that have short broad wings and a long tail and a characteristic flight pattern of several quick flaps and a glide.
Stay tuned for Part 2…