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Playing with one’s food (tragedy of a House Sparrow)

As we move into late fall and winter more and more bird feeders will be put up and filled with seed.  As birds concentrate at feeders they are susceptible to an ambush from one raptor species lurking in suburban environments.    Cooper’s Hawk are a species of accipiter, a type of hawk.  Cooper’s Hawks have long tails and rounded wings which allows them to maneuver around obstacles with ease.  Cooper’s Hawks are birds of open woodlands and the obstacles they typically weave through are tree branches and trunks.   Since suburbia resembles an open woodland, Cooper’s Hawks are at home there and have actually increased in this human dominated setting in recent years.  With these birds in our midst, people see them more and more.  Mike Darbro from Central City recently sent me a series of photos of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk near his feeders playing with a captured House Sparrow.  While it is not pleasant to see any animal suffer, the photos are compelling and require little interpretation.   Thanks to Mike Darbro for allowing me to share them on this blog.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Photo by Mike Darbro.

Cooper's Hawk

Again, this is a young Cooper’s Hawk.  His or her playfulness is probably because of youth and the need and desire to hone his hunting skills.  Cooper’s Hawks I have observed catching a bird typically are all business and quickly begin consuming their prey.

If you see a hawk ambush birds at your feeder this winter, chances are good it will also be a Cooper’s Hawk.

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Program

Many thanks to Mike Darbro for sharing and allowing me to share his photos on this blog.  

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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