Tag Archives: Red-tailed Hawk

Raptors in Harm’s Way

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

Late in the day on Monday we were driving on the Georgia Tech campus and a Cooper’s Hawk flew low right in front of the car, barely missing us.  A split second prior to seeing the bird, a squirrel raced across the street in a straight-line hurry.   He was not doing the indecisive squirrel thing that they do in the middle of the road, but running full out.  Clearly the squirrel was in the hawk’s sights.

How often does this happen?  A little homework revealed that it happens much more often than  you might think.  Here’s what we’ve learned.

Urban raptors that we see here are mainly hawks (Cooper’s, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered) and owls (Screech-, Barred and Great Horned).  Hawks are daytime hunters while owls hunt at night, but both may be seen in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.

Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus

Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus

Cooper’s Hawks and owls look for prey from a perch and then move quickly to pounce on a prey animal (‘perch-and-pounce’).  During a chase, these birds are laser focused on their prey, and because their eyes are fixed to the front they often miss objects coming from the side.

Cooper’s Hawks will fly fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side. [1]

The side of a highway or a city street is an ideal spot for urban perch-and-pounce raptors.  This time of year, the leaves are off the trees and rodents and squirrels have less tall grass and ground cover in which to hide.

Wildlife rescue organizations say that winter brings an uptick in raptor collisions with vehicles.  Speculation is that the increase is attributed to two groups: young first-year birds who don’t yet know the ropes and migrants.  Both groups would be unfamiliar with the territory and the roads. [2]

Although raptors are fast and agile, they are no match for fast-moving vehicles.

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

So, when driving in town, especially in urban neighborhoods with lots of trees and good hunting spots, slow down.  If you see a squirrel, chipmunk or small rodent racing across the street, hit the brakes.  Not just to save the squirrel, but because a raptor may be close behind.  Drive like your children and wildlife live here.

If you hit a raptor and it is still alive, try to get it to an animal rescue facility quickly.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Cornell – All About Birds:  Cooper’s Hawk
[2]  Audubon Society of Portland:  Winter Raptors
[3]  HawkWatch:  Risks to Raptors
[4]  City Wildlife:  Raptors in Our City

Monthly Journal – September, 2016

We photographed several butterflies this past month and had fun trying to identify them all.  It’s difficult for us to tell the difference between the Cloudless and the Clouded Sulphur butterflies, so we just labeled them Sulphur.  The same is true with the Skipper; there are many of them and while we think this is a Southern Skipper, we’re just not entirely sure.  We were also very excited to see the first Monarch of the season!  Hopefully there will be more.

Monthly Journal – August, 2016

August has passed, and birds are beginning to head south.  Groups of migrating American Robins are beginning to appear on lawns.  There was another report of the groundhog from the north end of the neighborhood and twice we’ve caught a glimpse of a groundhog-size critter disappearing into the grass on the Nature Trail.   Also, we were lucky a few days ago to have a rare daylight visit from one of our resident possums.

A newsletter from the South Fork Conservancy reports that Atlanta Audubon has documented over 75 species of birds on the South Fork of Peachtree Creek!  It’s just off Lindbergh, very close to us, and you can go on a guided bird tour of the trail this Saturday, September 3.  Atlanta Audubon has more information on their Field Trips page.  You’ll need to scroll down to the calendar and click on the “The Confluence” under September 3rd.  If you want to join them, they ask that you RSVP.

Hungry!

Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - July, 2016

Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis

Mid-day today we heard the insistent begging call of a juvenile hawk.  It was so loud and went on so long, we thought something might be wrong, but it turns out he was just hungry!    We finally spotted him in a large pine next door.  The parent was close by and buzzed us on our deck.

We naturally assumed he was a Cooper’s, having just watched a brood fledge across the street.   We sent pictures to our neighborhood ornithologist expert and friend.  Surprise – a Red-tailed Hawk!   This is great news because it means Red-tails have successfully nested here.

Look up and check the mature pines in our neighborhood for this young Red-tailed Hawk family.

Monthly Journal – April, 2016

There’s been much nesting activity in April, as there should be.  Three of the four houses on the Peachtree Park Nature Trail have occupants and there is  a Red-bellied Woodpecker pair nesting in a snag on the trail: (see the recent post Nesters on the Nature Trail).   The bluebird house in the Darlington Road triangle is occupied, and Bluebirds are competing with Brown-headed Nuthatches for a box three houses down.  Birds are nesting in shrubbery in multiple locations in our yard and Carolina Wrens in the oven vent.  This is occurring all over the neighborhood, and most likely in your yard.

Also, Goldfinches descended in mass in the trees inback of us for several days and emptied the thistle feeders every day for a few days.  The morning chorus at sunrise continues to be quite loud; some singers go on almost all day, like the Brown Thrasher below.  It’s a great time of year.

Brown Thrasher singing in a dogwood tree

Monthly Journal – December, 2015

Our wildlife photos for December are mostly of birds.   Of the 22 species shown below, some are migrants, some are winter residents and some are here year-round.  With all the unseasonably warm weather there have been lots of ladybugs.  We were unable to get a photo of our pal the opossum, but take it from us, he’s a handsome guy.

Happy New Year!