Sunday, February 28, 2010

A 2nd Year Cooper’s Hawk

A recent visitor to my bird feeder, identified by Sallie, my raptor rehabber friend: “This is a 2nd year Cooper's Hawk. Just the species I’d expect to go for your sparrows. (Hatched in 2009.)” … Just one of several ways that my bird feeder feeds birds. This hawk is welcome back anytime. Unfortunately for it, but fortunately for the sparrows, she/he may not want to come back. The pile of branches on which it is perched is a pile a of branches I keep near my bird feeder both to provide small birds with shelter from potentially lethal winter winds (not that we get a lot of those around here), and from predators like this hawk. I don’t begrudge the hawk any prey it can get hold of, but, by the same token, I begrudge none of its would-be prey a safe hiding place and the good sense to use it. What’s a good day for prey like a house sparrow is a bad day for a Cooper’s Hawk, and a good day for a Cooper’s Hawk is a bad day for its prey. Generally speaking, I wish prey and predators their equal shares of good and bad days, so that both may survive. (Of course, because house sparrows are an invasive, introduced species, the hawk is welcome to eat every last one of them in the Americas, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe then I’d start seeing some of our native sparrows.)

By the way, the “2nd year” designation means that this bird was born the previous year. At this point he/she is not quite one year old. By the time he/she is fully mature at 5 years of age, the irises of its eyes will have turned red, its breast will be predominately red, and its back will be a dark, gray-ish color.


  1. Alison in Indiana3:12 PM CST

    I wonder if the continued presence of the Cooper's is discouraging small owls.

  2. I don't think the hawk is posing a problem for the owls for two reasons. (1) There's a day-shift/night-shift issue. While the hawk might like a screech owl meal, the owls stay well hidden during the day, while at the same time song birds are highly active and therefore drawing attention to themselves. So the owls are likely to be last prey the hawk would attempt to catch, or even notice. (2) I have no evidence that the hawk has a "continued presence". I've seen such hawks at my feeder periodically over the years, but I'm unaware of any pattern of regular visits. Of course, I can't spend much time at home watching my feeder, so there's a limit to how much I know about what goes on around it. But I think if the hawk were a regular, I'd've seen it far more often (this is the only time I've seen it so far this year).