Paula's Patch: A Minnesota Garden

Come wander in; my gate is always open! Gardening / Birding

Where Are The Birds? February 12, 2012

This winter has been nothing but strange; mild weather, little or no snow and very low bird activity. I blamed the weather for the reduction in bird visits, but last week I saw our friendly neighborhood Cooper’s Hawk a block away soaring over the road. We noticed that our cardinal pair had been hunkering down in the pine tree out front staying close to the house. Then we spotted the hawk chasing a Bluejay around the pine tree and ultimately taking a rest in our Maple tree, where I was able to capture this pic. Suppose he was exhausted after trying to catch up to that Bluejay! But, alas, the Jay was safe. In pursuit of prey they can be seen dashing through vegetation at top speeds to catch birds.

coopers hawk | | paula bonelli(Too bad you can’t see his head very well.)

When we experience fewer bird visits in the summer, I know it’s because the hawk has been hanging around. He’s stealthy. Unless we happen to spot the large shadow flying overhead, we rarely hear him. But the telltale signs are there — the frantic songs of the birds in the yard followed by a couple of days of low bird activity. It’s the cycle of nature I suppose, but when he enters the yard and is after MY backyard birds, I have something to say about it! The diet of this hawk is mainly songbirds. I can’t remember seeing the Cooper’s Hawk during the winter, but maybe with this year’s milder weather they’ve pushed farther north than usual. I wouldn’t miss a few squirrels or rabbits, but my songbirds are special.

Do you have hawks in your backyard? Both the Sharp-shinned and the Cooper’s Hawk are becoming more common around feeder areas looking for an easy meal (Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology). And except for the difference in size, it’s very hard to tell one from the other. The average size of the Sharp-shinned size is 10-14″ or similar in size to a dove or jay, while the Cooper’s measures 14-20″.



3 Responses to “Where Are The Birds?”

  1. Paula, I’m noticing the same thing. My heated bird bath is not being used very much; mostly I see crows and woodpeckers but rarely the smaller birds that are usually here. We do have hawks but haven’t seen much of them. Strange winter, and a little worrisome. My mother, a few miles away from here, has also remarked on the lack of cardinals, jays, buntings, etc.

  2. Scott Says:

    Here in southeastern PA, both Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are common. I look forward to them in winter. Though extremely mild, I’ve been casually noticing just about the usual bird activity here (not a professional observation).

    • Paula B Says:

      Glad to hear that bird levels seem normal by you, Scott. 🙂 I’m not a professional observer either. I just like to watch and count my feeder birds for Project FeederWatch. Thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to comment. I look forward to checking out your site too!

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