Ramble On

Monday, May 5, 2008

Nesting Hawks

Beginning about two months ago I started noticing a pair of hawks that were spending a lot of time in the pine trees around our yard. In this area, one quickly thinks that a raptor bird of this type might be a red tail or an osprey, but those are both species that are much larger than the birds I was seeing. I spent a few weekends observing them come and go and finally learned that they were nesting in this large pine tree, directly in front of the house.

I’ve decided upon reading the literature that these are sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus), which are described as living in a wide range of woodland and forest types, including our area, which is dominated by pines and other conifers, and includes some oaks and hickories. Here is a wiki photo I found of the bird.

There are several interesting behaviors we’ve noticed. First, during some parts of the day, one of the pair will station itself in one of the tall trees nearby, repeatedly calling with a “kawk” sound – very similar to a single squeak from one of Gracie’s toys. Yesterday morning, we heard this noise starting around 8am.

Also, as the parent (I assume this is the female) leaves the nest to hunt, the call becomes “kawk-kawk-kawk-kawk” – multiple repetitions, usually while in flight. I have watched the bird chase blue jays, and have seen it in the tree with prey in claw. The blue jay chase in particular was notable, as these hawks aren’t much bigger than jays – some books even describe them as jay-sized. I think the two here are slightly larger than that, maybe crow-sized.

The main prey is other birds. By the way, we took our feeders down when we first learned this, not only because of the hawks, but because we heard that feeders are bear-bait in our neighborhood!

I’ve been trying to get a photo of the hawks in action or in one of the nearby trees, but haven’t been able to. The only proof I have of them in the vicinity is a periodic feather, such as this one, which I found on the pool deck. More to come, as we try to determine how many nestlings there are.


Mom said...

Hence the name Hawksbill?

Jim said...

I haven't quite figured out the source of the name Hawksbill. The nearby mountain is named that, as is the creek that comes down off of it. If you look up Hawksbill on Google, you will get references to the turtle and to some islands in Jamaica. So still looking for an answer to this.