Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cooper's Hawk for Breakfast

I love watching birds! I have been a bird watcher from the time I was a little girl sitting contentedly on my grandparents porch peering into a bush and watching in utter fascination a pair of song sparrows feeding their young. I spent hours out their studying them closely, making drawings and notes of everything they did. ( Oh, how I wish I still had that first notebook!) I have never outgrown that fascination and as an adult I make an effort to attract as many birds to my yard as I can by growing plants they love to eat and use for cover, putting out feeders and providing water. I have been pretty successful in attracting hummingbirds, doves, gold finches, lesser gold finches, and many others that migrate through. I always have birds in my yard of some kind looking for a free and easy meal. My politically incorrect husband lovingly calls them my "welfare" birds.

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to leave for work, I took one last glance out the patio door at all my feathered friends madly feasting away. I picked up my keys and looked again only this time I saw only one bird...a very LARGE bird...one with very sharp talons, a hooked beak and a fearsome gaze! A Cooper's hawk had just swooped into my yard hoping to get breakfast, too. Only he was not interested in seeds. He was hoping for a nice fat sparrow! 

I ran for my camera and as I watched this awesome bird of prey eying all the places the smaller birds had hidden, I realized he had a place in my yard, too. Some people get quite upset when a hawk swoops in and makes a meal out of one of their song birds, but I love to see the predator birds. By providing a food source for the smaller birds I am also providing a food source for the birds that prey on them, giving me an opportunity to study those birds up close and from the comfort of my own home.

In a short while the Cooper's flew off, but not until he had hopped down from his perch and peered closely into the tomato plant where the little birds often hide. I thought his behavior was interesting especially since I had just read an article in Bird Watcher's Digest the evening before describing similar behavior. I found it even more interesting that I had read the article, and had just that morning given thought to whether I would see any Coopers in my yard this fall and, amazingly, there he was! It was a great article and if you're interested in birds I'd recommend getting a copy for yourself.

 Birds of prey are not bad birds, it's just how they were created and if you take the time to study one you'll find they are well equipped to be what they are. Exceptional eyesight and swift maneuverability make them superb hunters. Strong feet, sharp talons and hooked beaks are the utensils they use to eat with, specialized to what they eat, just like hummingbirds have long bills and tongues because they sip nectar. Try to remember that if the thought of birds of prey bothers you any. They are a part of nature just like the pretty birds. In some ways I like them better because of the awesome power they seem to exude.