Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hawk in the yard


Do you see it?


This is a Cooper's hawk we spotted in the backyard last night while we were eating dinner. Our breakfast nook, where we have our kitchen table, looks out onto the back patio through a sliding glass door. We often watch the yard for squirrels and birds while we eat; we're all pretty enthusiastic about birds around here. We'd never seen a hawk right here in the yard before, though, so it was cause for excitement.

Have you seen a Cooper's hawk? It's a very common bird in North America, living year-round in many parts of the country. There has been something of a population explosion of Cooper's hawk in Albuquerque over the past few years. They say that if you live in the Northeast Heights quadrant of the city, as I do, then you probably live within a quarter-mile of a Cooper's hawk nest. Every park in the city has a mating pair, according to wildlife researchers. There are more nests here, in a fairly densely-populated urban area, than there are in the Bosque, the wooded area along the Rio Grande. The experts say that Cooper's hawk has been successful in the Northeast Heights because we've built an "urban forest" up here: the neighborhoods to the east of the Rio are older, therefore our trees are more mature, making good habitats for the hawks to nest. And not just hawks, but smaller birds like the pigeons, doves and sparrows that hawks want to eat. As the dove population increases, so does the hawk population.


We hear them a lot more often than we see them, I think. They have a very loud, piercing cry, which I am sure I have heard in the backyard before yesterday, so chances are good this was not the first Cooper's hawk to visit our yard, and maybe not even this particular fellow's first visit. He stuck around for a while, enabling me to take a few photos.


When he first arrived in the yard, we could see that he had a meal in his beak. It was probably a lizard, most likely caught right here in the yard. We have a huge lizard population in our yard but it's tough out there for them; they have natural predators in hawks and road runners, and I swear I've seen one of the hens with a lizard in her mouth. The hawk took more time with his catch than the road runners do, to the delight and/or disgust of those dining on the other side of the glass.

I find the hens' reaction to hawks very interesting. Hawks are a huge threat to backyard hens around here, though bobcats, coyotes and skunks are major concerns, too. I've seen the hens go into what looks like survival mode when there is a hawk circling in the sky over the neighborhood. They freeze, look upward and let out a terrible, shrill warning cry. They see the hawks before we ever do, even when it's just a tiny, dark silhouette far away. I assume this is a very primitive thing built into their brains: the shape of the hawk against the sky, the sound of its cry. When we spot a hawk, we put the hens back in the coop immediately. The small Bears are trained for it and they both watch the sky warily when the hens are having free-range time. The LB is particularly watchful; I've seen him carry each hen across the yard, looking up and in every direction on the arroyo, before hand-delivering her to the grassy patch where they like to roost.


The hawk eventually flew up to our weather station, which is fixed to the back garden wall, abutting the arroyo. He perched on the anemometer, looking out over the wildlife-rich arroyo for a long time. It was fully dark when I last heard him calling. He must nest nearby, possibly in the large city park just east of here, an easy thousand yards away if you can fly straight up the arroyo. 

30 comments:

  1. it's amazing how animals have so much 'programmed' in them! I really enjoyed learning about this! I can imagine some of your family loving watching the hawk and others, not as much :) ... A beautiful hawk, fascinating story of them!

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  2. I've seen hawks here, but I don't think they are Cooper's hawks. You don't realize how huge they are until you see them up close! The first thing I thought about was your chickens. Glad you are so watchful of them.

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  3. I also thought of your chickens right away. I'm should have known you are all very protective of them. I learned so much today Jennifer. You write the best posts and I always feel that I have had my education furthered after reading. I hope you're having a wonderful day.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  4. You got some GREAT shots of your hawk visitor! I also worried about your chickens and am glad your son is on duty as their guard. It's good you are watching the other predators too.. I don't want you to have to lose your chickens like that.. we have suffered some losses and it's awful. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  5. Beautiful!! We have them around here too, but see red tailed hawks more often. We have had one swooped down to our chicken run, luckily the roof of the run is covered with chicken wire :)

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  6. Hawks are just magnificent, in flight or at rest. We have one that hangs out at the nursing home. They are so fun to watch. You got some great photos!

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  7. Interesting! I have seen hawks...just don't know what variety I have seen. My good friend in San Jose has chickens in her backyard, and she is the one who told me years ago that hawks were a threat to her chickens even in her busy neighborhood. I am glad you have been able to keep your chickens safe! xx

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  8. The only time I've seen a hawk land in our garden, it was dismembering a pigeon! We have lots of red kites circling but, fortunately, they have left our chickens alone ........... so far! Wonderful photos. xx

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  9. You did well to get such great photos. Hope you are having a good week. Jo x

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  10. Great photos. I'm never usually quick enough with my camera when I see something unusual. We have birds of prey around here but I've never seen one land in my own garden.

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  11. Oh wow, you are lucky to have such a beautiful bird visiting your backyard. We don't see birds of prey often here in the city. x

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  12. Wonderful photos and so close! We have them here but I've never seen one in the yard...probably due to dogs and cats although a hawk could take one of the cats most easily. We have eagles in the valley, love watching them.

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  13. There's something quite thrilling about close encounters with birds of prey, I think. Look at his long legs! Sam x

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  14. What a neat experience, Jennifer! And you did a great job of capturing it in pictures.

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  15. He's magnificent! We get red-tailed harks here, but no Coopers.

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  16. So neat! Have you read 'H is for Hawk' yet? It's quite good (though at certain points a bit too self-indulgent and filled with many purple passages).

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  17. It's wonderful when the wildlife comes to you isn't it. We would have been thrilled to see such a bird in our garden, lucky you. And it's brilliant that you have so much wildlife around, even if some of it is predatory. A good sign that the environment is being looked after. CJ xx

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  18. That is very cool, although maybe not at dinner time :)
    We have a similar situation with Osprey where we live (along the shore of Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River). They were rare for a long time, then platforms were erected on top of power line poles so the Osprey had places to nest and the population has bloomed. We see them all the time now when we walk along the lake or even when we go visit our relatives an hour away (they have an Osprey about 100 yards away).

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  19. Great pics Jennifer. What an experience for you all to see the bird so close.

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  20. What a magnificent bird, and great pictures you have taken Jennifer. Although I did go off that bird when I began to read the comments and worked out it might attack chickens!

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  21. What a beautiful bird, lucky you for having it visit thought it doesn't sound like the chickens are so pleased!

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  22. Fantastic! How exciting to have such an impressive creature visit you xx

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  23. Good that the chickens are so alert ♥

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  24. Beautiful pictures of the hawk..

    Please visit: http://from-a-girls-mind.blogspot.com

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  25. I have never seen that kind of hawk. It is spectacular! And your got some great shots of it.

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  26. So interesting! I've noticed a lot more bird life down here in our new back garden than we ever had in Leeds, but never a bird of prey. I'm glad you all got to have a good look. We have a very busy resident squirrel who keeps us amused endlessly. Xx

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  27. We have so many hawks around here, they are always landing int he yard or swooping down in front of my car. Twice I have seen them land on the screen around the pool and snatch a lizard right off of it. Ours are red tailed hawks.
    Hugs to you,
    Meredith

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  28. How exciting! What a splendid bird. X

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