Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pre-School for Cooper's Hawks

young Cooper's hawk
The Cooper’s hawks have had a huge family this year. They first mated back in March. They must have lost the first clutch, but they are making up for it. There are four recently fledged juveniles hanging out in the backyard. In the morning and late afternoon they raucously call for their parents to bring them food.

Two of the larger juveniles are starting to follow the parents. It would be fascinating to see if they are watching their parents hunt.

Catching enough food to provision the four youngsters, who are now as large as their parents, is a Herculean task. The parents aren’t being picky about prey; rats have even become part of the fare.

With four youngsters to watch over, it's understandable that while the parents were off with the bigger chicks when they first left the nest, they missed that the little one didn't want to be left behind. The little hawk was not yet able to fly and ended up on a neighbor's front porch, just steps from the sidewalk. The flurry of humans wanted to "save" the little guy. But these hawks are devoted parents, like most birds, I convinced everyone to give the parents time to collect their youngster. I relocated the juvenile a short distance from its landing spot to an area that was away from the sidewalk, shaded yet visible to the parents. The parents did return and communicated to their little one what it needed to do, to get safely up into a tree.

He is flying a little, but still not well enough to follow the parents. The smallest of the juveniles he's pictured here. He's hungry enough that he has started trying to catch his own food. His movements are not skillful and his attempts seem to be in slow motion. He went toward a group of house finches, who stayed just out of his reach, then he turned to go after a fox squirrel. The squirrel couldn’t believe its eyes at first. It moved just out of the young hawks reach, then actually came back to taunt the young bird.

When he isn’t calling for his parents, the young hawk sits watching the small birds that one day will be its food staple. He’s learning how they fly, their alarm calls, how they respond to threats. His sharp eyes are ever watchful.  Cooper's hawk on fountain.

Meanwhile the California towhees are taking no chances. They are teaching their youngster to fly under the covered patio and carport. No use tempting the young Cooper’s hawk to make its first self-caught meal a young towhee just learning to fly.

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