I enjoy feeding my backyard flock, which includes songbirds, woodpeckers, chipmunks, and squirrels, and occasionally our peace and tranquility are disturbed by a predator, like a Cooper’s Hawk.
As a matter of fact, I love birds of prey and consider Cooper’s Hawks part of my backyard flock.
Why not. These birds are here more than I think, leaving a trail of destruction behind.
I don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know large clumps of soft downy feathers in the grass are evidence of a predator feasting on my songbirds.
And usually the Cooper’s Hawks feast on my unfortunate Mourning Doves.
Mourning Doves have long, pointed wings and pointed tails and can fly surprising fast, reaching 50 MPH, but where they’re slow is with their takeoff.
These birds spend so much time on the ground, so they’re more vulnerable to cats and hawks.
Cooper’s Hawk Versus Songbird
But this week, by sheer happenstance, the underdog won, in a Cooper’s Hawk versus songbird scenario.
I’m a big fan of the underdogs.
This victory requires a lot of luck and a little human intervention.
Get your “Rocky” theme in cue as I share my story.
I’m throwing peanuts out to a flock of my backyard squirrels who see me as a giant, furless squirrel, and an enterprising group of Tufted Titmice descend from a perch high up and steal the peanuts from them.
I keep pitching nuts to the squirrels, and each time, a crafty Tufted Titmouse grabs the peanut and flies away.
The squirrels are dumbfounded and can’t comprehend what is happening with the peanuts.
Finally, on the fourth throw, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk swoops in for the kill just as the Tufted Titmouse grabs the peanut and readies for takeoff.
The titmouse was a goner.
Leap and the Net Will Appear
I’m so robotic I already hurled another peanut, and it’s in mid-air towards where the next Tufted Titmouse is supposed to be, but there’s not another songbird waiting.
Instead, just as the Cooper’s Hawk outstretches its mighty talons to grab the songbird, the peanut strikes the hawk.
The Cooper’s Hawk rapidly changes its trajectory and flies off into the woods.
The Tufted Titmouse was spared, and now I have a miffed Cooper’s Hawk skulking in my woods because I embarrassed the bird.
Hand me a peanut and ask me to do that again, and it won’t happen.
I wasn’t trying to interrupt the circle of life but rather marveling at the outcome because it was once in a lifetime amazing.
The Cooper’s Hawk will be back like it always does, flying through to dine on my songbirds.
Cooper’s Hawks are Fierce Hunters
But today was a victory for the underdog – the songbird.
Don’t get me wrong, I love birds of prey, especially Cooper’s Hawks.
As a matter of fact, I do everything I can to protect them, even though that means having the occasional bird parts and blood strewn across my lawn.
Where there are songbirds, there are birds of prey.
And with 35 million Americans faithfully stocking their bird feeders, things get a bit ugly.
Cooper’s Hawks are relentless predators, perching near feeders, waiting to swoop down, scattering the birds in flight, and singling one out in flight for its meal.
But witnessing an animal hunt is never easy.
Seeing the circle of life play out before your very eyes can be quite painful.
When it happens at first, you’ll be in shock, and then you’ll feel mad.
Keep in mind that most birds of prey don’t make it through their first year and die of starvation.
So the life you see taken helps a bird higher up the food chain survive.
It’s taken me some time to come to terms with this thinking because I’m a vegan and value all life, but this is nature, and birds of prey aren’t supposed to live on tofu.
Just Nature Being Nature
When I had the pleasure of interviewing the late Wild Kingdom star Jim Fowler in 2017, he reminded me that no matter how upsetting it seems to have a songbird “taken” by a predator, that’s just nature.
Jim pointed to a spot in his yard and says a Cooper’s Hawk nailed on of the songbirds at the feeder right there.
He said it serves as a reminder that nature its 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,” Jim said.
He reminds us that 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 thriving.
“It’s just nature being nature.”
But today, the underdog won this round.
Fowler is wrong to depict nature as being violent. Of course predators must kill to survive and it’s not a pleasure to watch. But it’s humans who are the real killers! They kill animals in Nature and they kill each other! Often it’s a slow death by poison. We are killing the very planet we call home.
Hi Holly. Mr. Fowler meant that nature’s food chain is for the strongest to survive, but I agree with you about humanity and our need to kill things that get in our way, become a barrier to progress, people who think differently, have a different skin color or religious belief. And by doing so, we are killing our planet. I say live and let live and coexist with all living things!
Your ears must have been burning Renee. This morning (Thur Sept 24), I watched an immature Coopers Hawk unsuccessfully hunting a pair of squirrels. The young hawk was too impatient to hide long enough to catch the squirrels unaware!
Hi David…I have a backyard full of squirrels and the Coops don’t bother with them, but they love the songbirds. Especially the Mourning Doves. Bottom line: the Coop always wins because they are relentless and fly through the yard 6 times a day. The odd are in the bird’s favor.