Sunday afternoon, Cooper’s Hawks at leisure

First, some Cooper’s Hawk factoids, thanks to Cornell University’s All About Birds page on the critter. Lots of interesting things thing, including recordings of the critter’s call.

To the ornithologically minded, the hawk is known by its formal handle, Accipiter cooperii.

Some other hawk lore:

  • A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
  • Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban and suburban birds. Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat, forests. Cities provide plenty of Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove prey. Though one study in Arizona found a downside to the high-dove diet: Cooper’s Hawk nestlings suffered from a parasitic disease they acquired from eating dove meat.
  • Life is tricky for male Cooper’s Hawks. As in most hawks, males are significantly smaller than their mates. The danger is that female Cooper’s Hawks specialize in eating medium-sized birds. Males tend to be submissive to females and to listen out for reassuring call notes the females make when they’re willing to be approached. Males build the nest, then provide nearly all the food to females and young over the next 90 days before the young fledge.
  • The oldest known Cooper’s Hawk was 20 years, 4 months old.

This afternoon, one of the hawks lit in a favorite perch two trees west of its nesting tree. The branches are thinner, making it easy to catch a glimpse of possible prey. This fellow was in the midst of grooming when a pigeon passed by, and the lens snapped at the instant he [?] turned to catch a glimpse of possible prey. But an ongoing itch proved the more compelling draw, so at least one Rock Dove [the true name of our pretend pigeons] was able to escape the raptor hug of death — at least for the moment.

11 July 2010, 600mm, f6.3

Seconds later, another avian arrived, this one a sibling. The bird perched higher up the tree in one of the few areas heavily shaded by the branches above.

11 July 2010, 600mm, 1/1250 sec, f5.3

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