Cooper’s Hawk common feeder visitor

9:38 am | January 7, 2013

If you build or buy a feeder and stock it with sunflower seeds and other goodies, the birds will come.

So, too, will the hawks that feed on other birds.

They’re not exactly welcomed with open arms at bird feeders, but when you make the decision to feed birds, it’s always good to go in with open eyes.

I got a reminder of the efficient way a Cooper’s Hawk can dispatch just about any smaller bird when I walked outside Saturday, Dec. 29, and saw a hawk in the gravel driveway standing over a dark, large and very dead bird. The hawk took flight at once, and I investigated the kill. I had suspected the hawk might have snatched one of the Mallards that visit the fish pond, but as I got closer I saw that the victim was an American Crow.

This also helped me identify the hawk as a Cooper’s Hawk, and a female at that, since the raptor was larger than its victim. Before my interruption, the hawk had done a thorough job, and had already eaten most of the meat from the crow’s breast area.

Crows are usually wary and observant, but this individual must have had a lapse in its alertness. Earlier in the day, my mother told me she had observed a flock of crows mobbing a hawk. The crows knew there was a raptor in the vicinity, but the hawk still managed to capture one of them. That’s also a testament to the predatory skills of this particular hawk.

In Northeast Tennessee, we host different hawks throughout the four seasons. One of the more common hawks associated with wooded areas from spring through fall is the Broad-winged Hawk. This raptor, a smaller relative of the Red-tailed Hawk, is migratory and spends the winter season in Central and South America.

Another hawk — the Rough-legged Hawk — is a rare visitor to the region during the winter months. I’ve seen this hawk only once in the region back in 2000 in Shady Valley in Johnson County. This raptor, which prefers open country, is not likely to lurk near feeders.

Other hawks, including the already mentioned Red-tailed as well as Red-shouldered Hawk, are permanent residents throughout the year in the region. Neither of these hawks, however, are likely to visit feeders in search of an easy meal. The likely candidates in these sometimes bloody feeder encounters are two members — Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk — belonging to the accipiter family of raptors.


A Cooper’s Hawk perches on a branch to survey the terrain.

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