Friday, January 11, 2008

Hawks Eat Rats (and Squirrels) in Bham

Buckingham has had a few sightings of hawks over the last few months.

Miles Grant, on his blog The Green Miles, posted photos of a cooper’s hawk he’s calling Mordecai (he originally called it a red tail, but has since clarified it in a post earlier this week).

It’s a great time of year to see these birds, said David Farner, the Park Manager at Ft. C.F. Smith Park in north Arlington. With the leaves off the trees, these birds, which are really quite common in Arlington, are much easier to spot, he said.

The hawk at left, caught on camera at the corner of N. Second Rd. and N. Thomas Street just before Christmas, was a juvenile red-tail hawk. In an email, Mr. Farner said the blurry photo of the bird in flight was enough to identify it.

“The belly-band of streaking, the broad and rounded wings and short tail are all visible in that photo,” he wrote. “Red-tailed hawks don’t get the red tail until into their [second] year. So a brown tailed red-tail was probably born in spring [2007] or even [2006].”

The red tail might be a new resident to the neighborhood, or it might just be passing through on its way to warmer states. Many of the birds of prey have adapted well to urbanization. They can live in small patches of woods, along the George Washigton Parkway, for instance, and they’ll eat small animals.

“[The red tail's] preferred food is rabbits, but they’ll eat rats,” Mr. Farner said.

Mordecai, the cooper’s hawk, is similar to the sharp-shinned hawk. Although the sharp-shinned is a little smaller, they both feed off birds at feeders and therefore come around to homes where they can find the feeders, Mr. Farner said.

The difference between the red tail and the cooper’s is the length of tail; a cooper’s hawk has a long tail. It uses that tail to steer itself and can swoop in on a feeder using its stealth and maneuverability, Mr. Farner said. You’ll often see them flying under the tree canopy.

[It was most likely a cooper’s hawk, most likely, that had me hoping for a Northern Goshawk sighting in December 2006, and I'm still hoping, alas. –ST]

Some coopers are migrants or residents. “They can be here year round,” Mr. Farner said.

Related stories and web sites…
  • Coopers Schmoopers
  • Buckingham's Winter Visitor
  • There's a New Sheriff in My Backyad (from The Green Miles).
  • Ft. C.F. Smith Park

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  • Comments:
    Thanks for the shout out! Ever seen a fox in Buckingham? When I used to work an early shift, I spotted them trotting along the road once in Ballston and once in Courthouse.

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