Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Neighborhood's Elusive Cooper's Hawk

Alright, the Cooper's Hawk(s) (Accipiter cooperii) in my neighborhood are not really that elusive; they're actually a surprisingly common sight around Stanislaus State's campus.  I often see one while walking the dogs, I just never seem to have my camera with me at the right moment.  So, I was excited to get this photo - not the best photo, with the telephone wire and all, but it will do for now.  We can say that it symbolizes how well this "woodland" hawk, so perfectly designed to fly swiftly through trees hunting prey, has adapted to life in town.
It was last summer when I learned that at least one Cooper's Hawk had taken up residence nearby, somewhere in the vicinity of Stanislaus State University.  Its loud call in the mornings was the first clue, and shortly afterwards I spotted the hawk for the first time.  More than once I've had to explain to neighbors that I was watching a hawk, as I stood in a conspicuous spot with binoculars trained on a tree or telephone pole.  Twice I've seen a Cooper's Hawk along the side of the road (quiet, residential streets) with its prey - once a pigeon, the second time a dove. 
Early this summer, I discovered there is not only one, but at least two Cooper's Hawks in the neighborhood: a breeding pair!  One evening while walking the dogs (without my camera, of course) we saw four juvenile Cooper's Hawks just learning to fly, fluttering from limb to limb in a stand of trees.  One of the goals when the campus of Stanislaus State was landscaped years ago was to create an "urban forest."  And it would seem that the presence of a family of Cooper's Hawks, as well as Red-shouldered Hawks (more in another post), which are both birds typically associated with tall trees and woodlands, is a good indication of success.  It's wonderful to see birds like our beautiful family of Cooper's Hawks thriving in our neighborhood.  Certainly there is no shortage of prey in town, in the form of introduced European Starlings, Eurasian Collared Doves and Rock Pigeons!

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