If you’re one of the 35 million Americans that faithfully stocks your bird feeders, you’ve accepted the fact that you’re going to attract more than just songbirds. Where there are songbirds, there are birds of prey.
And sometimes things can get a bit ugly.
An increasingly common sight is a hawk feasting on the birds you’re feeding.
Mourning Our Doves
Just this last week we had the misfortune of witnessing juvenile Cooper’s Hawks hunting our Mourning Doves.
It happened so quickly, with no time to react.
Two doves gone in milliseconds before our eyes.
Bird Feeders Cause a Frenzy
Cooper’s Hawks are relentless predators.
They’re one of three North American Accipiters or bird hawks with short, round wings and a long tail enabling it to maneuver adeptly through trees.
Look up, and you might catch a glimpse of a Cooper’s Hawk perching nearby, waiting to swoop down scattering the birds at your feeders and singling one out in flight.
Other times they pursue their prey on the ground half running and half flying.
Circle of Life
Witnessing any animal hunt is never easy, and seeing the circle of life play out before your very eyes can be quite painful.
And if you feed birds in your yard, eventually it’s bound to happen.
When it happens, as much as you’re in shock and then feeling mad, keep in mind that if you love birds that most birds of prey don’t make it their first year.
The life you saw taken helped a bird higher up the food chain survive.
Winter is the most harrowing time for raptors.
The majority of young birds of prey negotiating their first winter don’t survive because competition for resources looms large at a time when those resources are the most scarce.
Jim Fowler Says It’s Just Nature
We were reminded of this when we had the pleasure of interviewing the late Wild Kingdom star Jim Fowler at his home in Rowayton, Connecticut in 2017.
Jim talked about his custom-designer Fowler bird feeder he created to enjoy birdwatching in his backyard.
And reminds us that no matter how upsetting it seems to have a songbird “taken” by a predator, that’s just nature.
He points to a spot on his yard.
“A Cooper’s Hawk came in and nailed one of the songbirds at the feeder, right here.”
Nature Isn’t A Kind Place
Jim said it serves as a reminder that nature is not such a nice place as everybody thinks it is.
“Animals are fighting, killing, and eating each other. Humans don’t work that way, but nature does,” he says.
“The predators take off the weak and sick, so they don’t breed, that’s why everything in nature that survives is very tuned in and successful.”
Jim said he didn’t mind if a hawk occasionally comes into his feeder area.
“It’s just nature being nature.”
Focus on Factors You Control
So as unfortunate as it seems, try to shake it off and think about the other songbirds you’re helping all year long.
Focus on the factors you do control for your backyard wildlife.
Such as offering food, shelter, water, a refuge from toxic sprays, and safety from mowers.
And remember, birds of prey are just nature being nature.