You Talkin’ To Me?
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I won’t apologize for my continuing love affair with Cooper’s Hawks. I find these ubiquitous birds of prey to be irresistible, in part because they are beautiful, but primarily because of their feistiness. These birds have far more personality than do members of most species. They are exuberant, outgoing, and often fearless in the presence of humans.
There are at least three of them appearing regularly at Sweetwater Wetlands this year. Cooper’s Hawks are territorial birds who will defend their domains against interlopers and it is a bit surprising to see three of them in such a small area of only a couple dozen acres or so. One explanation is that two of the three are juveniles and it may be that they are siblings and the offspring of the third bird. There may still exist some family ties, albeit attenuated, among these hawks. Another explanation is that there is abundant food at the wetlands and these hawks may feel less pressured by the presence of others of their species as a result. Typically, Cooper’s Hawks prey on smaller birds, but they are opportunistic hunters and will go after other prey if it is available. At the wetlands there are hundreds (thousands?) of Arizona Cotton Rats, and the Cooper’s Hawks hunt these rodents enthusiastically.
The bird depicted here is an adult and probably a female judging from her large size and broad breast.
The russet and white checkerboard pattern on the hawk’s breast is typical of a adult Cooper’s Hawk (a juvenile would have chestnut colored vertical streaks on its breast), as are the bird’s russet colored throat and her gray cap. The hawk’s orange eyes are also indicative of adulthood. Young Cooper’s Hawks have yellow eyes. As these birds age their eyes darken with adults having orange or even ruby red eyes.
This Cooper’s Hawk typifies its species in that it was unprepared to accept any b.s. from the likes of me. It looked me over for a few seconds and then, proceeded to give me a ferocious verbal reaming, standing its ground all the while. An angry Cooper’s Hawk will emit a sharp one-note call that it repeats two or three times a second. It sounded as if this very angry bird was screaming “Pek, Pek, Pek” at me.
I was lucky to get only a verbal chewing out. During breeding season these birds will sometimes attack interlopers into their territory. Usually it is the male who will attack, dive bombing the hapless observer with talons extended.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 400, “M” setting, f6.3 @ 1/1600.