Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cooper’s Hawk Visits the Habitat

An exciting day – one of the hawks that I was previously unable to photograph showed up in the Habitat yesterday. In that previous post, I mentioned that the hawk perched on top of the feeder pole and was most likely a Cooper’s Hawk. Today, we first spotted him again perched on top of the sunflower seed feeder. And, there is no doubt that he is a Cooper’s Hawk (he was clearly crow sized, versus blue jay sized Sharp-shinned Hawk)

The hawk quickly left his perch on the feeder and flew 30 feet to the tall oak (as seen in all of these photos.

As you can see, the oak tree’s branches are quite dense. And yet, from such dense vegetation, the Cooper’s Hawk launches his attack at his prey. Dashing through this dense vegetation to catch birds is a rather dangerous lifestyle. A recent study found that 23 percent of all Cooper's Hawks examined had healed fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula or wishbone.
Other hawks in the Habitat (Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks) are interested in a variety of prey, including chipmunks. However, the Cooper’s Hawk is interested in one think only – small birds. When he is perched on top of the seed feeder, it is highly likely that he has just missed catching a small bird. But rest assured, this hawk has no interest whatsoever in the seed, just the birds eating the seed.
When the hawk was in the oak tree, he allowed me to go out the back door, down the porch steps, and approach the oak tree. I got within 35 feet of the oak before he took off. He returned to perch again in the oak about 15 minutes later, but then left very quickly.
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