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Hawk Versus Squirrel Near My Front Door.

August 24, 2013

Cooper’s Hawk

Gray Squirrel

Earlier this week I opened my door to go to the grocery store, and saw a struggle for life and death in the natural world mere feet away.  I went and got my camera- no travel necessary for this one.

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Here’s the tail end of the incident- a hawk flying at a squirrel on the ground, trying to grab it.

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The hawk flew up to the Maple Tree out front, not far from my front door.

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Here’s the hawk’s intended target, a Gray Squirrel– a common yard visitor who had been looking for peanuts.

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The hawk kept watch on the squirrel below.

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It was very intent on the squirrel…

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This is a Cooper’s Hawk, a common suburban bird of prey and the bane of many bird feeders.

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It seems to be staring directly at me- this bird is an immature (first year), not having its full adult plumage yet.

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It sat still enough for me to get a closeup- it’s a gorgeous creature.

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This bird was extremely alert.

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After a bit it stood on one leg- notice the sharp talons.

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It wasn’t giving up easy!

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What a fierce look…

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Here’s its target once again- this was a first-year squirrel on the smaller side, so I think the hawk thought it was worth a try to grab it.  Normally they leave full-sized squirrels alone.  The squirrel was pretty calm about the whole thing and didn’t seem to show any signs of panic, so perhaps it had learned that as long as it kept moving, the hawk was no big threat.  I’d seen squirrels running around tree trunks evading hawks before- the hawks seem to come up on the losing end in these kind of contests not involving surprise and stealth.

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The hawk took off across the street, following the squirrel- no luck though, it couldn’t grab it, so it flew off between the apartment houses.  It’s an amazingly agile flyer.  Since it is an immature bird, perhaps it’s still learning what is an optimal target and what isn’t.  Live and learn.

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Here’s the squirrel, finally free to go bury its peanut.  Be careful out there!

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2013 12:29 am

    That is one beautiful hawk, and you got some great shots of it. I love their eyes; amazing birds.

  2. August 25, 2013 4:04 am

    What superb views, and great photos! That is a beautiful hawk. Squirrels are amazingly wily creatures – I guess the hawk will learn very quickly!

    • August 25, 2013 9:35 am

      I was surprised Jo that the squirrel still came down out of the tree when the hawk was up there looking at him- it knew what it was doing though, it was a bit too big to haul off!

  3. August 25, 2013 7:10 am

    Very nice shots of the hawk! Reminds me of a few years ago when we noticed one perched on our grill just outside the kitchen window. Lucky day for the squirrel!

  4. August 25, 2013 7:50 am

    That was a lucky squirrel, and a beautiful hawk!

    I’ve seen squirrels carrying the battle scars from hawk encounters, and I’ve seen cooper’s hawks take full grown mallards, so I hope that the grey squirrel is counting his blessings today.

    • August 25, 2013 9:41 am

      When they strike by surprise while flying, these hawks are very effective- but if they have to hop around on the ground, those aren’t good odds for a meal 😉

  5. August 25, 2013 10:32 am

    Wonderful photos of the hawk. I’m partial to the raptures, but kind of happy the squirrel got away!

    • August 25, 2013 6:01 pm

      Thanks Joleen- the hawk is beautiful, but the squirrel seemed to know how to keep from becoming a meal!

  6. August 25, 2013 10:40 am

    That is a gorgeous bird! Wonderful captures. 🙂

  7. August 25, 2013 10:45 am

    A beautiful young bird. I’ve seen small birds sitting safely on the same branch as a hawk, knowing that the hawk needs to strike from above.

  8. August 25, 2013 1:23 pm

    Yes, it’s a hawk-eat-squirrel world out there!
    Such beautiful photos of that hawk! I’ve tried to take pictures of birds before, and it isn’t easy!
    I’m kind of glad the squirrel got away, as well.

    • August 25, 2013 6:04 pm

      Thanks Apple Hill- the hawk is so handsome that all it had to do was pose, that made my job a lot easier!

  9. August 25, 2013 3:23 pm

    Wonderful photos; I love the detail you captured, Ever time I run to get my camera the opportunity is lost. I am going to have to start to always cary it.

    • August 25, 2013 6:05 pm

      I hear you, Charlie- I missed some shots of the hawk actually hopping around chasing the squirrel on the ground. I should keep it right next to the front door!

  10. August 25, 2013 5:12 pm

    I would have backed the hawk with eyes and claws like that.

    • August 25, 2013 6:06 pm

      Exactly, Tootlepedal- I’m sure the hawk does much better when he makes a ‘surprise visit’.

  11. keekeepod permalink
    August 25, 2013 10:42 pm

    Great shots. I’ve never had any luck getting a good look, let alone a shot, at hawks in my neighborhood. I do know when it’s dead quiet outside during the day, a hawk is around.

    A neighbor had the misfortune hearing a bird being eaten alive by a hawk.

    One hawk, probably a cooper, did try to dive in over me and a feral kitten! Not enough room between the fence and the trees so it flew off. I would’ve taken on the hawk for the kitten.

    Would you have tried to help the squirrel?

    • August 26, 2013 5:20 pm

      It’s tough to say, Keekeepod…on the one hand, hawks have to eat like everyone else, but on the other hand, if I’m leaving peanuts out for critters (and I have a hanging safflower seed feeder for chickadees & finches) then I feel rather responsible for attracting these critters in the first place. Then again, a Cooper’s Hawk (one or another) has been flying around my apartment complex for years, before I started leaving fodder out. I guess if I saw the hawk pick off something right in front of me, I’d be less inclined to put out food…

      • keekeepod permalink
        August 26, 2013 11:07 pm

        I completely understand. Both my neighbor and I are not as dutifully putting out bird food due to my feral cats. Once in a while, migrating birds like warblers and dark-eyed juncos get caught, almost always female too.

        Too bad I can’t train the hawks to take the bunnies that one of the feral cats has been so proficient at killing and bringing home.

  12. August 26, 2013 12:49 pm

    Hi Seasons, Great pictures of the hawk and the squirrels. Yes, small squirrels are a favorite meal for many hawks and other larger birds of prey. Have a great coming week!

  13. August 27, 2013 11:02 am

    Those are excellent shots of the hawk! I know that all critters have to eat but I’m glad the squirrel got to see another sunset.

    • August 27, 2013 3:47 pm

      I definitely have mixed emotions about what I was seeing, but the hawk was an amazing bird to see up close!

  14. mary biscuso permalink
    August 28, 2013 3:32 pm

    We have a pair of Cooper hawks on Piedmont–they start their distinctive calls early (at daylight) every morning. I worry about my little tailess, 7-lb kitty, Faygo!

    • August 31, 2013 9:20 pm

      Cooper’s Hawks are very fast and can surprise you- I saw this same hawk in the bush right outside my window today. You never know when they’ll come by!

  15. September 1, 2013 8:11 am

    Love your mighty photos of that majestic hawk. The amateur dramatics of immature nature are thrilling.

  16. September 14, 2013 9:28 pm

    Such a magnificent creature.

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