December 14, 2011 to here
CREATE A FOOD WEB: Feed Birds
COOPER'S HAWK WITH PIGEON PREY.
Does the sight and/or description of predation traumatize you? Frankly, it has traumatized me in the past. If it does you too, then you might want to go to a different website. Seriously, I can understand your feelings. But, as a Wildlife Biologist I found that I had to try to get around all of that. After all, it is life.....in the natural world. So here we go:
Note the pigeon (Rock Dove) is still alive here because you can see it's open eye and that it is fully alert.....at least for the moment. Over the last couple of years I have seen this scene replayed more than several times through my front window. And each time, the Cooper's Hawk (it could be the same individual or a different one) never looks at the pigeon as it is killing the pigeon. The hawk has very long, curved and sharply pointed talons that pierce the pigeon's body. Obviously, the pigeon is hemorrhaging. But the entire process of killing the pigeon may take the better part of minute or even longer. Throughout this time the pigeon occasionally struggles under the hawk. This often causes the hawk to rearrange its talons, and likely piercing the body in slightly different areas. If the talons pierce a major blood vessel then the pigeon will die quickly.
Here at my Maine home I have been feeding birds for several years. Immediately the squirrels came. I considered shooting them but could not do it. Honestly, I think it would be a traumatic and futile effort: Even if I decided to kill them, there is no way I would succeed at eradication. Besides, that is not me. I am a compassionate man. They need to live too. And I definitely did not want to put myself through the trauma of killing them. So I made a deal with them.
I got a squirrel-proof feeder for one side of the house (the Eliminator?) and on the other side (outside my front window) erected a feeding platform that I surrendered to the squirrels, along with the birds.
Congregation invites predation.
Another animal that a lot of folks consider a nuisance is the pigeon or Rock Dove. These birds congregate at the feeding platform and live with the fear that they can be hit at any moment by a Cooper's Hawk. As you know, pigeons almost always arrive in a group and they feed frantically. In fact, the few Cooper's that live in the general area here occasionally stop by and just wait on a wire or on a tree limb at a considerable distance but in clear view of the platform.....for a meal of pigeon that is certain to arrive.
In the Fall, in northern latitudes, birds become more congregated at feeders because the growing season has ended and there is less wild food sources. So, in the Fall through to Spring I see more Cooper's Hawks around my feeder.
When the hawk attacks it drops from the perch, directly at the group of pigeons, so that the pigeons are apparently not picking up any motion until the hawk is zooming in through the last several feet. Then it is too late and it is just a matter of which pigeon is lunch on that day. On another occasion a Cooper's flew directly at my face (I know not why), and veered off course, passing by very close to my head, only when it had gotten to within a few feet and nearly ran into my face. And it was not until that last instant that I saw it. It was just a flick of an image of a hawk right in my face and then instantly gone! My brain perceived the hawk for literally just a split second.
Lesson: At first I would bang my closed hand on the side of the window frame to scare off those annoying pigeons. I did it for weeks. Gradually I realized that If I was going to enjoy feeding birds I was going to have to tolerate the pigeons. It is that simple. And along with that came the Cooper's. That is life. That is nature. That is the way it is. At least to this point in time. If you have any suggestions just e-mail me at email@example.com
On November 9, 2012 I was outside and noticed a large group of pigeons on my front roof, just above the feeding platform. I clapped my hands to scare them off. They have become conditioned to my attempts to startle them and they now know there is no harm connected with it. So they take off half-heartedly and usually immediately return. This time they initially started flight at the usual slow speed but an instant later they streaked away frantically, accelerating to a blistering speed. I knew why and I instantly began visually searching for the bird. There it was; the Cooper's Hawk came casually flapping right by me and went off to someone else's feeder to lay its ambush. It had been waiting in full view, probably on a utility wire, but motionless. They either did not know it was there or they were waiting on the roof because it was there. The hawk was waiting for the pigeons to leave the roof and get grouped together on the feeder. If I had seen the hawk I would have had one less pigeon to deal with on that day. That's the way nature is whether you like it or not.
BTW, I just noted on November 9, 2012 that although virtually all the leaves have fallen, they still have some Fall-color in them. That is in contrast to the above image (taken December 14, 2012) in which they are all brown.
So, when the leaves begin falling I can begin looking for Cooper's Hawks around my feeder and occasionally killing a pigeon and I can expect that to continue through Winter.