Monday, December 31, 2007

Backyard Hawk Action

OK, I was all ready to post the "pool party" movie I took yesterday afternoon, but something much more exciting occurred in my backyard today, so "pool party" will have to wait till tomorrow.

WARNING: this post will contain scenes of blood and a dead house sparrow, so if you're at all squeamish (or really like house sparrows) you may want to just stop right here and move on to the next blog.

I was looking out the kitchen window and happened to notice that all the birds were gone from the feeders and the Downy Woodpecker was playing "statue" on the suet feeder. Hmmmm....look for the hawk, Ruthie. Hey, there it is....can you see it....that dark blob there on the ground back behind the Downy?

Now, can I get a good picture through all those tree branches?
No, not really, but let's give that hawk a little time to eat its meal before I go outside and see if I can get any more pictures.

OK, it's been about 10 minutes.....let's step out the back door and see if the hawk will stay around. What do you this a Sharp-Shinned or Cooper's Hawk?

Hmmmm, it's really concentrating on eating up that bird. Wonder if I can creep any closer and get behind that tree over there?

Yes! Still I can use this tree as a blind and take a picture from here. I'm thinking maybe a Sharp-Shinned. See all those white spots on its back? I couldn't tell what color its eyes were, but it looks just like the picture of the adult Sharp-Shinned Hawk in my "Hawks & Owls of the Great Lakes Region" field guide. (Susan or Science Chimp--can you provide a definitive ID?)

I was even able to take this 40-second movie of the hawk finishing up its meal (I wish the movie wasn't so dark, but oh well.....)

After the hawk flew away, I photographed the scene of the kill. I was thinking a junco or house sparrow had become supper (because I have so many of them around).

Here's the only identifiable body part that was left--definitely a house sparrow beak!
Woo-Hoo!! Only 149 more House Sparrows to go.



Lynne said...

Dang Ruthie!! That is so cool to see!! It says great things about your back yard habitat that hawks are part of the food chain. It's always such a thrill for me to see hawks behaving naturally. Very- very neat!

Happy New Year to you and your family (Hi Betty!).

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
I was so amazed that I was able to walk out into the yard and the hawk didn't fly away! I think they're in the yard a few times a day, but I usually don't see them (just hear the bluejays screaming their alarm). I think it's pretty cool to have these hawks around too (although some of my birdfeeding neighbors up the street don't think so).
Happy new year to you and your gang also!

Anonymous said...

It looks like a sharp shinned hawk to me, it's similar to the one that sits in our gingko tree and watches our birds for a tasty meal. The hawk hasn't been very lucky here lately. I'm sure surprised at how close you got to the hawk and it's kill. That little woodpecker was mighty scared.

Mary said...

Good job, Inspector Ruthie! Wow.

I was afraid the victim might have been that woodie... Glad the house sparrow perished instead.

That was a hungry hawk (I can't ID it). The Cooper's hawk that visits my yard usually carries its prey away. I'll check back for an ID.

Great post :o)

Happy New Year to you and your whole family. And Betty! (she needs a blog)

Dave said...

Good pix's Ruthie. Happy New Year!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think it is always a happy event to get rid of a house sparrow in a natural way. So glad it didn't get the downy.

Happy New Year!!

Jayne said...

I was thinking like Mary... the Cooper's I see always carry their prey away. How cool that he stayed there in the yard enjoying dinner so you could see him in action! I haven't seen any Sharp Shinned in my yard yet.

Jennifer said...

I could almost hear your voice on the documentary-style movie in my head as I read your post. In my PC days (that's Pre-Camera) we had a similar event in my very suburban backyard, but it was a Cooper's and a pigeon!

Happy New Year!

Ruth said...

I would gladly feed a few hawks with House Sparrows from my yard. Great shots.

mon@rch said...

Without a doubt this was a highlight post for sure and you documented it's visit! I love the "149 more House Sparrows to go" comment and your photo of the sparrows head! Morbid but perfect for sure!

Deb said...

Well, since my trip to Hawk Ridge my way of ID'ing Sharp shinned hawks is size: would it fit in a tube made of two beer cans? :) From your photos, it looks like it might.

What a great sighting! Glad you were able to share it!

Trixie said...

What a great post. Very interesting. I am no help on the ID.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mom,
Thanks for your help in the ID. I'm always amazed that the woodpeckers can remain still for so long when the hawk's around.

Hi Mary,
I was glad it was a sparrow too. When I first saw all the gray feathers I thought it might have been a junco, but finding that sparrow beak made me happy. I'm amazed that there was almost nothing left of that bird, so that hawk had a good meal.

Hi Dave,
Glad the pix didn't gross you (or anybody else) out too bad!

Hi Lisa,
You know, I've never found any evidence of woodpecker's being killed by a hawk in my yard. I have so many sparrows flocking at the ground feeders and that's got to be easier for a hawk to catch one of them.

Hi Jayne,
I've seen both the Sharp-Shinned and Cooper's hawks in my yard, but the Cooper's more frequently. I'm glad both of them are catching some house sparrows.

Hi Jennifer,
I was sure happy that I got to see and photograph this event. Isn't it wonderful how the digital camera has enhanced our lives?

Hi Ruth,
Thanks. I'd still rather have the hawk catch my house sparrows than me having to trap them.

Hi Mon@rch,
I'm glad you enjoyed it--even though it was kinda gross.

Hi Deb,
Thanks for that ID help. It helps when I have a size comparison like that to use to help determine that it was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

Hi Trixie,
Glad you enjoyed it. My field guide shows that Sharp-Shinned Hawks are in Alaska in the summertime. You'll have to keep an eye out for one next summer.

KGMom said...

Oh Ruthie--you had me laughing in spite of the blood and gore.
And your pic of your hand holding the beak--priceless.
I am not surprise--since you can coax birds to eat out of your hand, why not hold a de-birded beak?

Windyridge said...

Wow great pics and video. I found you through CDGardens. I am a knitter, spinner, fiber animal raiser and outdoor lover myself. I recently wrote about Blackburnian Warblers on my NY site (othersideofnewyork,com). You might find that interesting. You were so lucky to see that hawk up close and personal. Do you know we had a white red tailed hawk around here for a year? I had some close encounters with it on horseback. It was really awe inspiring.

Susan Gets Native said...

Ruthie: How big was this hawk? Blue jay sized or crow sized?
Coops will eat at the kill point, too. Lots of raptors will.
It looks like either a really big Sharpie (female) or a very small Coop (male).
Either way, great observation! And thank God it was a house sparrow. But it's more like 1 down, 10 billion to go.
: )

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
I was looking down at the ground trying to figure out if there was anything left to help with the ID and all I could find was that little chunk of head and beak....and I'm torn between "wow, cool" and "ewwwww, yuck" as I'm picking it up. Sometimes I'm almost too weird even for myself ;-)

Hi Windyridge,
Thanks for stopping by my blog and providing the link to yours (which I've added to my other links). I'm glad you respect and enjoy the hawks also.

Hi Susan,
Definitely much closer to crow-sized. The thing that kind of threw me off were the white spots on the back...I've never noticed them before on either the Cooper's or Sharp-Shinned in my yard. No matter who it is, they're still always welcome in my yard.
Thanks for your help.

Larry said...

Gee-and I thought hawks were vegeterians-cool video!