Cooper’s Hawk Snags a Finch

Trigger warning: The small bird died.

I was getting ready to start making dinner last night when I saw a shadow swoop over the back porch, low, fast and dark.

When I looked up, I saw a squirrel running down the top rail of the fence faster than I have ever seen a squirrel run before. Even more interesting, it was running away from its normal safe place, the ash tree in the next yard over.

I snatched up my trusty camera and started trying to disentangle it from the tripod I leave it on. Whatever was out there, I was going to need more flexibility than the tripod would give me.

At the same time, I was scanning the ash tree. This tree has been a great perch for all sorts of birds through the years. Unfortunately, the snowstorm late last spring damaged it so badly that it is coming down in the near future. But right now, it was hosting a Cooper’s hawk.

A little blurry because I hadn’t turned on autofocus yet.

The hawk was floundering a bit, trying to catch its balance. But there, in one of its talons, was a small bird.

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk has a finch in its talons.

The long tail with the rounded end, and the fact that it was hunting in the trees strongly suggested that it was a Cooper’s hawk. The striping on the raptor’s chest told me that this was a juvenile.

The hawk took a moment to check its surroundings, making sure that it hadn’t attracted any unwanted attention from other predators.

It looked around for a moment more. Then, faster than I could squeeze the shutter, it was off, carrying its prey to someplace where it could eat in peace.

I always feel bad when I see a small animal become a larger animal’s dinner. But turning it around, the larger animal needs to eat, too. Nature is beautiful, but uncaring, too.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...

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