Saturday, June 13, 2015

Two Cooper's Hawk Observations

I realized a few months ago that in central Texas, during the summer there are far fewer birds that specialize in hunting other birds than in the winter. In the winter we have Eastern Screech-Owls, Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks in the woods, and Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and American Kestrels in more open areas. (We might even have a few Prairie Falcons.) In the summer the only expected species out of all of these are Eastern Screech-Owl and Cooper's Hawk, and there are far fewer Cooper's Hawks. So there is much less danger from the air for our songbirds during the summer.

Despite being much less common in the summer, a pair of Cooper's Hawks has nested in the woods along Lake Creek Trail for at least two years now, and I made a couple interesting observations of them this morning. I heard a vocalization that I didn't recognize. My guesses were Cooper's Hawk or Blue Jay. Its tone was like the "cak cak cak" call of a Cooper's Hawk, but it was longer and slower. It wasn't unlike some sounds I've heard Blue Jays make. And Blue Jays often imitate Cooper's Hawks. I follows the call for 20-30 minutes and finally got a glimpse of the bird. It was a Cooper's Hawk. Here's a recording of this new-to-me call I made with my iPhone:

While I was following the call I found a bunch of scattered feathers on the ground. They looked like secondary flight feathers from a hawk or owl. I arranged a few and photographed them. At home I looked them up and they turned out to be Cooper's Hawk feathers. Usually when I find scattered feathers like this they are from a smaller bird that has been preyed on, like a White-winged Dove. I wonder what happened to this Cooper's Hawk. It might've just lost a bunch of flight feathers in some kind of conflict with another hawk or an owl. Who knows!

Cooper's Hawk Feathers

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