The Defiant Cooper’s Hawk

Last Friday I was watching a finch hop its way across the top railing of our deck toward one of our bird feeders.  Right behind him was a mourning dove walking with its usual head jerky walk.  Both were within inches of one of our bird feeders when I saw a blur of color which suddenly morphed into an adult Cooper’s hawk nabbing the dove.  The hawk flew off to the nearest pine tree with the dove in its talons.

I opened the door and yelled, “Hey, I was just watching that dove.  It was on MY deck.” 

The Cooper’s hawk rudely responded by taking the dove to the opposite side of the pine tree and plucking more of the dove’s feathers.

Frustrated, I sat back down and wondered how many Cooper’s hawks were frequenting our feeders.  We have half a dozen feeders that attract a lot of birds and squirrels.  It was easy pickings for a hawk.  I could only hope this hawk was passing through.  And that after he ate the dove his tummy would be full.

The next afternoon, around 1 p.m., Mark and I were backing down our driveway en route to my mom’s when I happened to catch a glimpse of an adult cooper’s hawk eating a fox squirrel under one of our bushes.  I got, snapped a photo and asked the hawk if he was the same brazen bird that took my dove the day before.  In response, he hunched over his prey and glared at me.  I told him I wasn’t happy he took a creature out of MY yard and asked that he finish the squirrel before we got back.

Cooper's hawk with fox squirrel.
But no.  The hawk was still under the bush and still in the process of eating the squirrel when we returned two hours later.  To show him I was still in charge, I stood at the corner of the garage and snapped a few more photos.  The hawk apparently didn’t like because it flew off to a nearby tree.  Thinking I could outsmart and outwait him, and hoping to see him return to his kill, I hid behind a bush for a good ten minutes, only to finally realize that the hawk was sitting right between the V-notch in the tree and was watching me the whole time.  And likely, laughing. 
Cooper's hawk watching my every move.

My cover blown, I headed down the driveway to check on a drag mark in the snow that I’d seen earlier.  At the edge of the driveway was a wing pattern in the snow and a blood smear, then a long line about 4 inches wide and an inch deep that ran from the driveway to the bush.  My amateur conclusion was that the squirrel had been nabbed on the driveway, or the road, perhaps, dragged across the snow, and dropped where the hawk had hoped nobody would disturb him.

I left the hawk to its meal, hoping he’d finish before I had to let the dogs out.  But no.  An hour later, I cringed when I saw that the hawk had left the squirrel remains under the bush just out of the dogs’ reach.  I yelled, “Hey Hawk Boy, get your butt back here and clean up this mess!”   I’m sure the hawk heard me even though I could not see it.

Thankfully, my aging dogs did not notice the grossness just a few yards away, and, even more thankfully, the next morning the squirrel remains were gone.  Maybe I’d finally got through to the Cooper’s hawk.

On Sunday afternoon I was jotting down my Friday and Saturday Cooper’s hawk encounters when I noticed that a considerable amount of time had passed since I’d seen any birds or squirrels at our feeders.   I glanced around the yard and saw a juvenile cooper’s hawk sitting on our brush pile.  I snapped some photos through the window as she spread out her feathers. 

Juvenile Cooper's hawk.

 Alma birdie biologist pal Mike Bishop, a.k.a. BirdNerd, later told me that the female was “mantling”, which raptors do to conceal prey they’ve brought down.  

Juvenile Cooper's hawk.

I didn’t see what prey this hawk nabbed, but her kill made a total of three critters taken from my yard in one weekend.  I was on the verge of opening the door to have some words with this hawk when I saw her bend over.  I snapped this photo, then, wondering what I had shot, sent it to  BirdNerd.

Poopin' Cooper's.

He said I captured “the moment the feces were just leaving the cloaca (the pink skin at the feathers) and the squirt of poop is still a pointed stream.”  An appropriate final act of defiance.

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