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HAPPY NEW YEAR & Cooper's Hawk
January 02, 2012

Happy New Year Everyone.

I decided to take a few extra days off.

This week's guest writer is Lorna 'The Got Milk Mustached' Cat.

Why not, she sit in my chair with me much of the time when I'm working.

Yes, she does demand attention.

I was speechless, to all of the positive responses to the Christmas Newsletter

I am honored and deeply touched by all of your Christmas and Holiday well wishes.

I wasn't able to respond to everyone, but I do want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You are the best.

The Christmas and Holiday Season are now in the rear view mirror, and it is important to look forward.

Yes, it is okay to reflect and take notes, but living in the past, isn't living.

Is It?

(Akita likes to cuddle and snuggle.)

Yes, a fond farewell to 2011 and an exciting anticipation for 2012.

Winter weather is just now trying to settle in.

Green/brown grass ushered in Christmas and The New Year.

Typically, warmer than normal temperatures aren't so healthy for some plants and people.

The warmer days and snow free grounds also keep many wild birds in their natural habitat to feed.

As many of you are noticing fewer feeding birds so far this winter, a gentle reminder to everyone.

Birds still feed off the land a good 75% of the time.

Which means our feeders supplement about 25% of their feeding needs.

Now, I'm not saying this is true everyday, but wild birds still feed in the wild, most of the time.

There are other reasons for the lack of birds in many yards.

My yard is right on top of that list.

From questions I get and some remarks on many birding forums, hawks are a popular topic.

Cooper's Hawk in particular.

"Coops" are found throughout southern Canada and pretty much all of the lower 48 states.

Hopefully I can help answer some questions on Cooper's hawk, and maybe have an answer for your bird feeding.


The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) and its smaller cousin, the Sharp Shinned Hawk are quite often spotted during the winter months in our backyards.

(The name comes from William C. Cooper, ornithologist and scientist.)

Adults have red eyes and have a black cap, with blue-gray upper parts and white underparts with fine, thin, reddish bars (pictured below).

Their tail is blue gray on top and pale underneath, barred with black bands.

Immatures have yellow eyes and have a brown cap, with brown upper parts and pale underparts with thin black streaks mostly ending at the belly.

Their tail is brown on top and pale underneath, barred with dark bands.

The eyes of this hawk (as in most predatory birds), face forward, enabling good depth perception for hunting and catching prey while flying at top speeds.

You may have been witness to a lightening quick strike that almost made your jaw drop.

Some people get excited by this, while others are saddened and grow angry.

I think I fit in both categories.

I am excited to see the speed, power, and nature at work.

I am saddened and angered when I see one of my cardinals get nailed or spot the evidence of Mourning dove, or Blue jay feathers scattered about.

I get a bit mad, when I think I am setting the buffet table for predators.

However, when it is European starling, or English sparrow, I seem to root the hawks on to victory.

I do enjoy watching these birds in flight and in pursuit of prey.

On some summer days, I am witness as Tree swallows give chase and pick on this medium sized hawk.

In some regions throughout North America, Cooper's hawk is threatened and even endangered.

I understand they are indeed endangered in South Carolina

However, my part of Michigan, they are quite a common sight at woods edge and suburbia.

Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds.

You may have watched a Cooper's hawk in hot pursuit as it goes crashing into a pine or spruce tree.

Sometimes talons first as it flies full speed in and comes out with its prey in tow.

I have seen this many, many times.

Studies show that more than 20% of Cooper's Hawks have had at least one broken bone at one time or another due to its kamikaze style of pursuing prey.

After all, this is their natural habitat.

Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now quite common as city and suburban birds.

Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat.

When you think about it, accipitors like Cooper's Hawk, are almost tailored to zip through urban and suburban landscapes

The past few winters, my yard was pretty much held hostage by a rather
large female Cooper's hawk.

You will see a couple of winter pictures of her.

One picture shows a European starling in her clutch, the close up will show the red eyes that adults are known to have.

This winter I have not seen her (maybe she died), but there seems to be a new sheriff in town.

(Life Expectancy:) One banding record indicates over 7 years. probably 10 to 15 years.

In winter's past, Cooper's hawk would mostly hide in the spruce trees and ambush my birds.

She was good at what she did, and knew it.

This year's version is a juvenile female.

If you look at the size of this hawk, you can tell it is a female.

The beam she is standing on is a 2"x6".

The tail extends a good inch beyond the beam.

Now, using the beam as a measuring stick, you can see this bird is a good 17-18" from head to tail.

She is so arrogant, she will fly right in and sit there for the whole world to see.

Actually, as a young bird, she hasn't fine tuned here hunting technique and skills.

I have seen her several times come flying right in, sit on the rail and then fly into the shrubs after a bird.

I have seen here fly into a neighbors Blue spruce in pursuit.

Then she comes out and will just sit there.

Whatever her technique is, you can see she is successful and healthy.

Look close at the first head shot above (Immature hawk), and you will notice some blood stains on and near where the bill meets her chin.

I didn't notice the blood on the camera, only after I put the picture on the computer.

Cooper’s Hawks mainly eat birds.

A Cooper's Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing.

Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies.

Sometimes, I think the sheer force of impact will kill many birds.

They've even been known to drown
their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.

Studies list medium and even larger birds as food sources.

European Starlings, Mourning Doves, and Rock Pigeons as common targets along with American Robins, several kinds of jays, Northern Flicker, and quail, pheasants, grouse, and chickens.

A large female will even attack the much smaller male.

Small birds are generally (not always) safe around Cooper’s Hawks.

Cooper’s Hawks sometimes rob nests and also eat chipmunks, hares, mice, squirrels, and bats.

Mammals are more common in diets of Cooper’s Hawks in the West.

Eastern Cooper's also are larger in size than western birds.

How to slow em down or deter attacks at your feeders.

The first option or choice is the obvious one.

That is to take your feeders down for a few days.

When the song birds go elsewhere, the hawks will leave also.

When you hang your feeders back out, the songbirds will return.

Unless the hawks find a good feeding ground, the hawk will eventually return as well.

A bit of a catch 22, don't you think?

Some feeders come with cages or you can purchase cage, but these are designed more for smaller birds.

If picture taking isn't a factor, you can even design and make your own cages using 4x6 or 6x6 fencing to surround your cage or go all out and create a fly through aviary around and above your feeders that will keep hawks at bay.

For ground feeding, whether tossing seed on the ground or using platforms, offer feed under thick deciduous shrubs that offer some kind of protection.

Place several of the 3 foot (1M) garden stakes all around the feeding area.

This deters ground level assaults, but wont stop a quick drop from a hawk.

Placing food or feeders under or too close to conifers, only gives a predator a place to hide for an ambush.

Feeders out in the open, give any hawk a 360 degree vantage point.

When you place feeders close to or attach to your house (windows), you now cut that advantage to more than half in the feeding bird's favor.

Place hanging or pole mounted feeders as close to deciduous trees and shrubs as possible.

Hang them from branches that make it difficult for attack.

You now offer protection and minimize the point of attack.

Any advantage you can give your birds is worth exploring, unless you look at it as 'Nature' at work.

The birds of prey have to eat, but sometimes I don't like setting the buffet table for them.

Where seed drops under your feeders, you can once again, place several garden stakes or make a cover with fencing that only allows for a low ground assault.

Too many objects will slow down feeder birds at first, but they will get used to the cages and stakes.

While Cooper's hawks often crash into trees to pursue prey, they are often reluctant to slam into garden stake, houses, and fencing.

What you are trying to do, is offer your song birds a fighting chance.

You wont totally prevent a kill, as it is instinct to fly from danger and the hunt is on.

We only try to give our birds a chance, but when a Mourning dove just sits there as if to say "If I don't move, nothing will see me"............. there is nothing you can do about that.

I hope you found this letter informative and hopefully a bit helpful.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

A blessed New Year to you and now the positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

What better way to start a New Year, than with a quote from one of my favorite authors.

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.

Leo Bascaglia PhD.1924-1988.

Author, Lecturer,and Lover of Life.

Now a quote from my favorite book.

Whoever does not love
does not know God, because "God Is Love".

1 John 4:8

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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