Catching a glimpse of a Cooper’s Hawk
June 29, 2017
'Tis the season to find heaps of feathers scattered around the yard. For years, I've assumed these mysteriously appearing piles were evidence of the neighborhood cats' prowess. Turns out, they're likely what remains after a raptor's successful hunt.
We've discovered that a pair of Cooper's Hawks built a nest in a large tree across the street from our house. The first hawk sighting happened when my next-door neighbor was working in his driveway and noticed one perched on a nearby fence, watching him carefully but seemingly undeterred by his presence. The hawk stayed there for several hours while my neighbor tended to his car. He went inside for dinner and when he came back out, he saw the hawk in the grass busily finishing up its own dinner.
The raptor had likely been keeping watch over its prey until it could eat without disruption. Knowing my fascination with all things wildlife, my neighbor called me over to see the carnage left behind. Other than the tell-tale pile of feathers, all that was left of the hawk's meal was a bit of skeleton that had been picked clean.
The very next morning, my neighbor knocked on my door, announced a pair of hawks were in his backyard, and invited me over to see them. Through the window, we watched as they swooped and noisily called to one another, alternately perching on branches then landing in the grass. Both were a beautiful brownish-gray with a prominently streaked pattern down the front breast.
After a few minutes we saw what all the fuss was about; another bird had met its fate and it was time for the hawks' breakfast. They knew we were watching, so we left them to eat in peace.
Since then, there have been multiple sightings and I occasionally hear them call to one another when I'm outside. The hawks aren't particularly fond of being seen and tend to keep to the taller branches throughout the neighborhood. The nest is far too high to see if there are any eggs inside, but I'm on alert for evidence of hatchlings.
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I've learned that instead of biting or tearing, a Cooper's Hawk kills its prey by squeezing it repeatedly.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that these hawks will sometimes hold prey underwater to drown it. They prefer birds, but will also feast on mice, squirrels, chipmunks, hares and even bats. Forests and woodlands are their preferred habitat, but they have successfully adapted to life in parks, fields, and suburbs.
Adult summer reading program
My last column highlighted some of the seasonal programs offered by the Douglas County Library. Through the month of July, they're providing a summer reading program for adults ages 18 and older.
Participants are invited to share their opinions on books they read; door prizes will be awarded for every book read or every audio book completed. Weekly drawings will be held for additional prizes, and the grand prize is a Samsung tablet.
Additional adult programs in the month of July include a mug cake baking class and Bad Art night.
Register at either the Minden or Zephyr Cove branch of the library. For more information, log on to douglas.lib.nv.us, or call 775-782-9841.
Amy Roby can be reached at email@example.com.