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.
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″.