Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cooper’s Hawk Kids – Final Update

If you've been following the WBS blog you probably know the story of the pair of Cooper's Hawks who courted and nested within sight of our home.
Here's the female Cooper's Hawk (mama)

...and here's the male (papa)
In my last Cooper's Hawk blog post I described the fascinating (and sometimes hilarious) antics of the three fledglings that resulted from that mating.  (To see the first two chapters click on "Cooper's Hawks" in the list on the right side of this page.)  

Following is the final chapter in the education of the Cooper's Hawk kids.

7/18 – Today my husband saw one of the young Cooper’s Hawks chasing a Dove through the yard.  I think they’ve finally figured out what they’re supposed to hunt.  He didn’t know if it was successful, but it’s a start.

7/21 – I haven’t seen or heard the hawks for several days now.  Perhaps they’ve moved on to more productive territories.  I think they may now be hunting for themselves, since I haven’t heard them hunger screaming in the early morning lately.

7/22 – I hadn’t seen the hawks at the birdbath for several days, but finally saw one of them in a neighbor’s yard this afternoon.

Another neighbor told me that he saw one of them in his birdbath one day, and then shortly thereafter saw it lying prone in the dirt near the birdbath with it’s wings outspread. Our raptors at WBS frequently do this when they are sunbathing.  This behavior is called “pancaking”.   Since the temperatures are in the 100’s I can only guess that perhaps this bird was trying to dry its wet feathers after its bath.

7/23 – The Hawks are back from wherever they’ve been the last few days.  I didn’t see them early this morning, but the yard was absolutely quiet, which tells me they were somewhere in the vicinity.  All the songbirds are either hiding or sitting tight and not calling.  I’ve come to realize that this means the hawks are on the hunt. 
They zoomed by me on their way to the birdbath
This afternoon as I was out in the back yard two of them whizzed by within inches of my head and then landed on the birdbath.  The temperature was 106° and I’m sure they were desperate to cool off.  They usually just stand in the water.  By cooling off the blood supply to their feet it lowers their body temp.  They stood in the birdbath for about 20 minutes and hunger screamed for mom who I’m guessing is trying to wean them.

I haven’t seen the smaller male, but he is usually more wary than the two females.  According to Jeff Meshach, Director of the World Bird Sanctuary, there is good reason for his wariness.  Jeff says …”The male is wary for good reason...if his sisters are hungry enough (and you can bet they are with mom and dad hardly feeding them anymore) they will make a meal of him.  Too much size disparity between the sexes...boys can and will get made into a pellet.”

7/27 – Again, I hadn’t seen or heard the hawks for several days, but this morning as I was walking out to my van to take my granddaughter to Day Camp two of the hawks zoomed overhead and into one of the oak trees in pursuit of a smaller bird.  I think they’ve finally learned to hunt for themselves!
Any small creature who becomes the object of this fearsome stare had best beware
8/15 – I haven’t seen our hawks since that last exciting chase.  I heard one calling from across the road one day, but no sightings since then.  Their visits are becoming less and less frequent.  My guess is that they’ve now become self-sufficient and are claiming their own territories.

Even though I miss watching their antics every day I am thrilled that they’ve survived those first perilous months when so many young birds succumb to hunger, predators, drought, storms, injury, etc. 

If we’re lucky they or their parents will use this area to nest again next year.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

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