Monday, 23 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

So much like the sharp-shinned hawk that even experts are often fooled, the Cooper's hawk has just one real distinction: it is larger and stronger and able kill prey larger than the "sharpie" can. As luck would have it, the common barnyard chicken of the 19th century fell within the Cooper's' prey range. The 'chicken-hawk' thus became an outlaw, to be shot on sight. Since few people troubled to distinguish between the Cooper's hawk and other species, all hawks by definition became chicken hawks. For years, over much of North America, they were slaughtered by the thousands.

Fortunately, most people have come to understand the role that predators play in nature, and hawks are protected by federal law. But many are still inadvertent victims of man. Flying hawks strike roadside wires; some die after eating gophers or other animals that have been poisoned to control their numbers. Perhaps the greatest threat, though, comes from an unseen foe - the plate glass window. Cooper's hawks are woodland birds; they know nothing about reflecting surfaces. When Cooper's hawks see a window, they see whatever the glass reflects, be it sky or trees. They think they can just fly through it. Sadly, they sometimes succeed, but the price of success is still a broken neck.

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds