Saturday, August 14, 2021

On The Hunt


Coopers Hawk on the Hunt

Alert and quick, the Cooper's Hawk and its close relative the Sharp-Shinned Hawk live on small birds.  These species often hunt around bird feeders in the winter, using hedges, a fence, or even a house to hide their approach.  They suddenly burst into the open near the feeder, like a gray-brown missile, at over thirty miles per hour.  In that fraction of a second they look for a songbird that is vulnerable - slow, inattentive, or just unlucky.  With a quick flick of wings and tail the hawk changes direction, spinning and dodging to follow the smaller bird, trying to get close enough that its long legs and need-sharp talons can reach out and snare the prey.
Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks are the menacing "chicken-hawks" of earlier generations, but they are generally too small to take full-grown chickens.  The related Northern Goshawk is more of a threat to chickens, but quite rare.  A reflexive belief that hawks are evil, and that hawks and humans compete for the same food let to centuries of persecution  Educational campaigns in the late 1800s and early 1900s stressed the economic value of hawks- for example, they help protect farmers' crops by eating mice - and an appreciation of the value of predators led to strict laws to protect hawks.  But hawks are still persecuted in many areas, and this same thinking continues in attitudes toward wolves and other large predators.
(From: What It's Like To Be a Bird by David Allen Sibley)

This painting of a Coopers Hawk is inspired from a photo I took of this visitor who happened to be hanging out in our backyard tree, no doubt spying on the songbirds visiting our feeders.
A rare visitor, always a moment of awe...

This painting is available for purchase at

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