Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Hawk v. squirrel

 


     I did write a column for the paper for today, but it got held for content, in a good way. Since the column is about Thanksgiving, my editors felt it should run on the day itself, and I agreed. So this episode, not the most pressing for certain, was called in, as an understudy topic. 

     So I look out the kitchen window and — damn! — there is this bad boy, a Cooper's hawk, Accipiter cooperii. I've seen one in that exact spot before, but they usually fly away before I can snap a photo. This one didn't. He — or she — just stood there, passing the time, gazing around. I'm standing in the kitchen, marveling, and suddenly, enter stage left, a squirrel. Not oblivious. Steven Squirrel clearly sees the hawk, but looks like he's going straight for him. Up the porch stairs, to the base of the post the hawk is standing on.
     Which strikes me as odd. Would not the prudent squirrel be stealthily fleeing in the opposite direction, away from the hawk. What gives?
     The hawk meanwhile is ... oblivious. I'm figuring it's snack time for him. I'm waiting for the hawk to notice the squirrel, while trying to suss out the squirrel's strategy. Maybe he figures the closer he is, the less of a dive the hawk can go into. Maybe hawks just don't notice prey literally at their feet. 
     The squirrel is practically going on its hind legs, turning up toward the hawk, as if trying to catch its attention. As if to say, "Hey stupid! I'm here! Right here!"
      Then the squirrel passes, under the hawk, and keeps going across the porch. I see the hawk finally notice the squirrel. I see him — or her — see the squirrel. The hawk spreads its wings. Here it comes, I think. And flies away. A few flaps and it's gone.
     The truth, as least as gleaned from minutes of research on online nature sites, is that Cooper's hawks are not that into squirrels. Oh, they'll eat them in a pinch. But all things being equal, hawks prefer small birds to squirrels, which are too big and put up too much of a struggle. Sometimes it seems the hawks taunt the squirrels, even sort of play with them, before flying off to pick on someone not quite as close to their size. 
     So there you have it. The hawk sighed and flew away. The squirrel moved off without so much as a backward glance.  Though I did notice its tail was puffed up like a bottle brush — trying to look bigger to scare off the predator. It worked.

16 comments:

  1. Sometimes, it’s best to just notice the simple pleasures of life.

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  2. Having had them get into my basement & they also ate the tomatoes I grew & now no longer grow. They also destroyed the flowers in my flower box, so...
    The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel!
    I do however make an exception for the animated Rocket J Squirrel!

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    1. Tried to grow sunflowers for several years. As soon as the seeds ripened (how the squirrels knew that, I have no idea) the stalks were flattened and the flowers bitten off. Likewise for pumpkins, the slightest hint of orange was a signal for the squirrels to attack.

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  3. There must be an analogy here to the current political situation, but I haven't had coffee yet and I can't think of one. Maybe later. I'm pretty sure you had one in mind. Have a nice Thanksgiving Eve Day, Neil.

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  4. Like you, we had a Weber propane grill along with a charcoal grill. Two observations: 1) your cover is spotless, ours quickly became mossy (PNW y'know); 2) why do/did we do this?
    Oh, a hawk! Our eagles and osprey have abandoned their aeries for the winter. Oddly, we don't notice as many hawks, perhaps a failure of recognition because their size might be similar to our scores of turkey vultures. We're looking forward to welcoming back our raptor friends in March.

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    1. The trick to keeping the Weber cover pristine is buying it last May — it was Edie's Mother's Day gift. If it were uncovered, you'd see it is a gorgeous blue enamel.

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    2. By the way, yours is a terrific yard for birds. I remember seeing a few striking specimens at your feeder a couple years ago.

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  5. Great story and equally impressive photo. Both of which we would not have gotten to enjoy had you not moved to the burbs (Silver linings…). Thank you for always delivering terrific content (for free no less).

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  6. Nature doing its thing. Always a great show/lesson. Thanks for the pictures that nicely illustrated your story.

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  7. Did you see that there's a movement afoot to change the name of Cooper's Hawks?

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  8. Warms my cockles this chilly day while simmering gravy for the family's feast to see life in harmony framed so well.

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  9. I've had a Cooper's hawk(s) in my yard checking out my chickens from time to time.

    I've wondered why I don't have any missing chickens. The hawk was right there sitting on the fence. It's very impressive that you got a photograph. Any movement that we made caused them to fly.
    I imagine if they were hungry enough they certainly would more seriously consider a chicken or a squirrel, but they are one of the smaller hawks and I love having them around, especially now that I know they're probably not going to mess with my chickens


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  10. Immature Cooper's Hawks, like the one in your photo, sometimes chase squirrels because they have yet to learn. And the squirrels seem to taunt the immature birds, too. Snow drifts can be a great equalizer, however. I watched a hungry Cooper's hawk take out a squirrel in our snow-filled backyard. I had stomped a path to the bird feeders, and the squirrel used the same path. When the hawk swooped in, the squirrel was unable to quickly zigzag to the nearest tree. Gone!

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  11. Congratulations on getting the perfect photo, showing their interaction with each other (such as it was). Only thing I can add here is that that is not Steven Squirrel but his cousin Robert, who was visiting from Evanston. The two are frequently confused.

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  12. Driving home after seeing Napoleon I turn on my street to see two animals fighting madly in a lawn unsure of what they were. White feathers billowed, then a beautiful white bird flew over my car for the predator to attack it once again behind my car on sidewalk in front of neighborhood market. I could only guess it was a dove and hawk. Sad yet strange how the attacker was elusive and too quick to my eye. Everything happened within seconds and I bet anyone leaving the grocery saw no remnants.

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  13. I waited until this morning to read your article because I was so sure the squirrel would meet his/her death. Being a squirrel lover, I couldn't bare to read of its demise. Lo and behind, a truce! I'll leave you alone and you leave me alone. Now why can't humans act like that? Judy

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