Cardinal, Cooper’s hawk both lucky to survive encounter

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She stoops to conquer: the Cooper's hawk pursues its prey with reckless abandon.

Just outside the window in my den there is a 4-foot-tall hedge of yew bushes, with very gnarled and dense branches.

For the past week to 10 days, I have been watching a pair of cardinals fly into the hedge and then work their way up to the thickest center of the bushes. I assumed they were building a nest.

The cardinals visit my feeder daily.
The cardinals visit my feeder daily.

The cardinals are at my bird feeder every day, along with a dozen or more other species of birds. They stop in my yard for a bite to eat and a drink of water. The cardinal is one of my favorites. Seeing his bright red color and hearing his cheery call is a pleasant way to start the morning.

One morning I watched him feeding the female, a part of their mating behavior.

I have also seen a Cooper’s hawk near my house several times this spring, flying over the open fields. I think it has a nest in the neighbor’s grove of trees less than a quarter-mile away. Last month I saw it flying near my house with a snake in its talons, heading toward the grove.

The Cooper's hawk mostly feed on small birds.
The Cooper’s hawk mostly feeds on small birds.

The Cooper’s hawk feeds mostly on song birds, but it will also take small mammals, snakes and frogs. The hawk usually hunts by sitting still in a tree, waiting for its unsuspecting prey to pass below, then it drops down to attack. If the bird misses its quarry, it will give chase for a short distance, sometimes with reckless abandon.

One evening when I was watching the news, I saw the cardinal fly into the hedge and begin to work its way toward the nest. The little bird was not aware that the Cooper’s hawk was stalking it from the tall cedar tree. The hawk flew low into the hedge, chasing the cardinal, but it hit the branches and lost its balance, spun in a half-circle and then hit the window.

It managed to right itself and then flew away across the yard. The cardinal made it safely to its nest. I wish I had an instant replay of 2-second event.

This was a close call for both the cardinal and the hawk. The cardinal was almost supper for the hawk, and the hawk could have been seriously injured when it hit the shrubs and window.

I looked the area over afterwards. I did not see any feathers or injured birds. I am sure both birds were startled by this, and so was I. It was an interesting drama of nature to see occur just 2 feet from my face.

The vivid color of the male cardinal is visible in the dense yew bush outside wmy window.
The vivid color of the male cardinal is visible in the dense yew bush outside wmy window.

1 COMMENT

  1. Over the years in front of the hotel, I’ve often seen one of these Cooper’s hawks dive over the library, trying to nail one of the gazillion sparrows that roost on the west side of the Carnegie.

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