Like Predator – Like Prey

Original post date 4/3/2011 

This weekend I was trimming some shrubs in my yard when I came across a rather frightening sight. Actually, I didn’t see the thing when I was trimming, but noticed it when I was sprinting through the “danger zone” (see my post entitled Once Bitten), dragging cut limbs from the front of the house to the back – see my previous posts for more info re the danger zone!  Trimming back the Red Tip Photinia had exposed the carcass. I thought it was that of a huge rat. It freaked me out to the point I didn’t want to look at it too closely at first but curiosity finally won over. The “thing” was at about eye level and was wedged on a branchlet of the Red Tip as though it had just decided to rest a little while from its daily activities. It had been resting far too long, though, as it was merely hair and bones. Turns out, after closer observation, the carcass was that of a squirrel.

Squirrel Carcass

 

Squirrels must be the ultimate tree climbers of the animal world here in North Texas. No way a squirrel “got stuck” in the tree crevice and gave up and died, you know? And, I don’t think a sickly squirrel would typically climb a tree to seek out an eternal resting place, either. Well, the story brought to mind an observation my boyfriend (now husband) Mike had just the other day. He was talking with me on the phone and looking out his front window when he saw a squirrel crossing the street suddenly lie flat in the middle of the road and freeze. Puzzled, Mike looked all around and when he gazed upward, he saw a hawk fly over.

Mystery solved.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed a Cooper’s Hawk or two visit my birdfeeder. Not to partake in the seed, mind you, but to partake in the little birds that eat the seed! I had successfully identified the species of hawk one morning a while back as one perched on the fence less than 2 feet from my kitchen window. Although considered a mid-sized raptor, it was huge and commanding. Hooked beak and large talons. Gold and white speckled breast. Blue-gray striped feathers. Blood-red eyes. MAGNIFICENT.

 

Cooper's Hawk by David Powell

Cooper’s Hawk by David Powell

Cooper’s Hawks enjoy eating smaller birds, amphibians and rodents. Interestingly, they sometimes kill more than they can eat or feed to their young. Thus, they store or “cache” away their extra prey in secluded tree crevices. Sometimes they forget about or have no need to come back for their bounty. Similar as to when squirrels bury surplus acorns and fail to retrieve them all. Rather ironic that both predator and prey have the same habits, isn’t it? While I am admirer of all things natural and especially enjoyed the close-up view of the Cooper’s Hawk near my kitchen window, I would not be able to live with myself if I felt I was luring poor little birds to their death via my birdfeeder. If you find you are entertaining a hawk at your feeder on a regular basis, remove your feeder for a few days. Once the hawk realizes your backyard is no longer a happy hunting ground, it will move on and you can then safely return your feeder and resume feeding the songbirds!

For more information about the Cooper’s Hawk see http://gambrills.wbu.com/content/show/27603 and/or http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/coopers_hawk/id.

Until next time,

Cindy

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