Do you see what I see?

Do you see the bird in this photo?

There, just behind the main branch running diagonally from bottom left to top right, in the center of the photo, is a Cooper’s Hawk. The bird’s back is towards us. The hawk’s tail is hanging down from behind the branch, its upper body and head above it among the leaves.

I’ve been seeing Cooper’s Hawks a least once per day for the past two weeks, sometimes two or three times a day. The hawk in the photo, an immature bird, was seen several times on the day the photo was taken. It was hunting, just learning the trade if its behavior is indicative. I saw it, somewhat awkwardly, bushwhacking earlier in the day, flying down the path trying to scare up an unsuspecting songbird.

Cooper’s Hawks mostly eat birds, but small rodents also make it to the menu. Here, in the photo, the hawk appears to be hunting frogs. The bird hopped to where it’s currently standing (in the photo) from another nearby willow. It was intently looking for something. I saw no other birds in the area, and the hawk is most definitely glaring downward at something either in the water or on the roots or low branches of the trees.

You should be able to see the bird in this enlargement (6/30/12).

I was once told that about 75% of the Cooper’s Hawks hatched each year don’t make it through their first year. But I’ve read studies where the mortailty rate was placed at 91%, 5%, 51%, and several other numbers in between. Some of those studies involved urban nesting birds as compared to rural nesters, birds in areas with high prey species diseases which were passed on to the hawks, and other “special” circumstances which tend to increase or decrease mortality rates.

But, whatever the morality rate is for these birds, if they make it through their first year they have a good chance to make it to 12 years. Many of these hawks, though, fly into windows, cars, and who knows how many of them make mid-flight errors while chasing other birds through the woods and fly into trees trunks, branches or twigs and injure their wings and or eyes. If the crash doesn’t kill them outright an injury to a wing or an eye can be fatal in the long run, both those organs are critical for pursuing and capturing prey.

The hawks have to develop their hunting methods if they’re to survive. I don’t mean to paint such a gloomy picture, but I couldn’t help but to notice that this hawk, the one pictured, didn’t seem to be doing well in the hunting category, if indeed it was the same hawk that I had been seeing over the past couple of days. There could be one or two other young hawks in the area who are also learning the ropes. I may have been seeing a whole family out hunting, being taught how to hunt. I did see an adult that same day. But I never saw more than one hawk at a time.

Anyhow, I just wanted to wish this hawk well and hope that it perfects its hunting skills, soon.

2 responses to Do you see what I see?

  1. Tammy says:

    I have one of these close to my house. It took out a whole nest of birds by my front door.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      Sorry about your songbirds.
      Cooper’s Hawks were absent from the landscape for many years due to persecution and pesticide use. They’re a fairly common sight now. I hope they don’t get all of your nesting birds.

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