Life's Little Moments

By dbifulco

On silent wings...

Note:  I am adding this on 4 January to correct my identification of this accipiter.  After much discussion and finally sending the images off to a local expert, he believes it is actually a Sharp-shinned hawk.  Which just proves that however much you think you know about can always learn more!  

Yard Bird # 2 - Sharp Shinned Hawk

The next in my series of backyard birds ... a Cooper's   Sharp-shinned Hawk, very heavily cropped.  After spending a very cold 40 minutes out in the yard and having nothing to show for it except the usual feeder birds, I was prepared to blip a perky Tufted Titmouse with a gleam in his eye.  Just as I was about to head into the house, I caught lightening fast motion accompanied by a rapid scattering of little birds.  A flash of wings and the hawk was less than 15 feet away, before veering off sharply and heading to a high perch at the edge of our woods.  I tried to creep a bit closer, but he immediately flew off into the woods.

Nothing like a hawk to make everyone's heart beat a bit faster!  I have identified this as a Cooper's Hawk (as opposed to the very similar Sharp-shinned hawk) because he has a stockier body, a bigger head in proportion to the body, and eyes closer to the beak.  Gender is a guess, but based on size, it's a male as the female would have been quite a bit larger.  And, by the way, I missed a far better photo op about 30 minutes later when I looked out the window and saw him landing on the tree just off our deck, having just missed grabbing himself a bird.  As soon as he saw movement through the window (me, grabbing for a camera), he was off.

There is a part of me that dreads seeing these little hawks around the yard as I know that they will eventually get some of the birds that frequent my feeders.  But the other part of me understands that hawks have a very difficult time finding food, without which they will starve.  In fact, did you know that the estimated first-year survival rate for this type of hawk is less than 30%?  And, in most cases, scientists say that mortality is due to starvation.  That said, I always hope when I see them that they get a finch, a robin or a dove ... anything rather than my year-round resident woodpeckers, titmice, cardinals or chickadees.  

Hubs and I braved temps in the mid-30's to take a nice 2 mile hike on one of my favorite trails, followed by lunch at a lovely little local spot.  Tomorrow the high temp is only going to be about 28 F, so not sure if/how far we will walk tomorrow...

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