Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Nervous Assassin

Late this morning, I looked out of our kitchen window and noticed an immature Cooper's hawk in the side yard, seemingly lounging in the sunshine.  Within a few seconds, however, he began to repeatedly hop into the air, twisting about as if performing a ceremonial dance.

Grabbing my binoculars, I focused in on the ritual and observed the tail feathers of a songbird poking from the grass; from what little I saw, I suspect it was a house finch.  Interrupting his dance, the hawk would roll the carcass to one side or the other and then resume his antics.  Finally, after five minutes or so, he took the victim to a grove of pinon pines where he settled on the ground for a bit before ascending to a limb to pluck his meal.

Large adult Cooper's hawks (especially females) often pluck and consume their victim at the site of the kill, unconcerned that crows or other scavengers might turn up.  Smaller birds (males and immatures) prefer a secluded location to enjoy their meal in peace, often taking it into a nearby tree.  I'm not sure how to interpret today's display; perhaps the young hawk was just excited to have made a kill but he had the look of a nervous assassin.