Bird Lady Blog

August 25, 2012

Hawks

Filed under: Cooper's Hawk,Red-Tailed Hawk — Munds Park Birding @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Courtesy of Gordon Karre

Spend a little time looking up in the sky at the right places and you will mostly see these large soaring birds:  Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, and American Crows.  If you are lucky, you may also see flying overhead an Osprey or Great Blue Heron.  And if you are very observant, with a little good fortune, you may also spot the Red-Tailed Hawk or even a Cooper’s Hawk.  Both hawks can be seen in Munds Park, but far less often than the other species mentioned here.

A hawk is a raptor, which by definition means it is a bird of prey.  Raptors exhibit a variety of hunting technique and scan the surrounding terrain with telescopic vision.  They can see a mouse wiggle its nose from over 100 yards away.  What makes them unique in the bird world are their hunting skills, their binocular-type vision, and their feet with very strong toes and sharp talons.  Most of their prey die a very quick death, with the raptor’s talons driven into the prey’s body and causing almost instant death.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common hawk in the U.S.  It is a hawk of the open country, so you will most likely see it soaring above the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course or an open meadow or perched on a utility pole along the road. Like its name, a key identifier of this hawk is its red tail, although there are 14 variations of this species and not all have the brick-colored tail.  Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and may mate for life. They make stick nests high above the ground.  Both sexes incubate the eggs for four to five weeks and feed the young from the time they hatch until they leave the nest about six weeks later.  Red-tailed Hawks feed on primarily on small mammals.

The second hawk reported in Munds Park is a Cooper’s Hawk.  It was seen in residents’ back yard for a few days in a row, hunting song birds.  These Munds Parkers saw it take at least three birds.  Like the Red-Tailed Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk is found throughout the United States and has adapted quite well to urban and suburban areas.   It is medium-sized with red eyes and a black cap, with blue-gray upper parts and white under parts with fine thin, reddish bars.  The Cooper’s Hawk appears long-necked in flight when seen soaring above and has been described by birdwatchers as looking like a “flying cross”.  In the open, it flaps, flap, flaps, then glides for a while, and repeats.  These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise, and they prey almost exclusively on small to mid-sized birds.  So if you have a bird-feeder or yard that attracts American Robins, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, House Finches, Mourning Doves or Band-Tailed Pigeons, you may be visited by a Cooper’s Hawk that thinks your bird-feeder is its ticket to a daily meal.

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