Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hunting Hawk

I'm always thrilled when my backyard birds put on a wild kingdom act, whether it's feeder aggression threat displays, begging fledglings, bathing, preening, or stretching out in the sun. The most exciting events, however, are hunting hawks, and I've been priviledged recently to have my Cooper's hawk, Dart, attack in my yard.

Many birders have a soft spot for their backyard birds and despair if a hawk scatters the flock or manages to catch a songbird. I look at the hunt a bit differently: these birds don't hunt for fun or sport, and only about one tenth of the time are they successful in catching their dinner. They don't waste food, and they're just as vital a part of ecological health as any bird. The birds a hawk catches are often sick, weak, or simply have slower reflexes than their peers, and thus a flock is strengthened whenever one of these weaker links falls prey to a hawk.

This hunt seemed to be one of Dart's most successful. While Cooper's hawks regularly feed on birds, including larger birds such as doves, her juvenile reflexes and strength aren't as sharpened as an adult's would be. After catching this unfortunate Eurasian collared dove (you can tell by the size and coloration of the bird), she fluttered with it for several feet in ungainly hops before finally getting good enough purchase with her talons to carry it over the fence and to a more secluded spot to dine. I particularly like the photo I managed to snap of her regarding the dove, as if wondering just what to do next.

Hawks are outstanding creatures, and both sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks are regular visitors to backyards here in Utah. For more information, I highly recommend...

Most of all, remember to enjoy the hawks when they grace your yard with a visit. It may not be the ideal image you have of backyard birdfeeding, but any visit from a less frequent bird is a sighting to be enjoyed and treasured. Happy birding!


forestal said...

Nice post and pics - although sad to see the birds die, as you say, it is part of nature and you are lucky to be able to watch so closely


christi taylor said...

A cat had killed a turtle dove in our yard and we left the cat to finish his dinner then this morningit was neat to see a coopers hawk enjoying his breakfast on what was left of the dove . At least it didnt go to wast. Amazing to see mother nature .