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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitchen Hawk

When sitting down to breakfast on Sunday morning, I noticed we had a visitor outside the window.

I used to complain about the people on the opposite side of the courtyard feeding pigeons. Over the years, however, I've noticed that the line of cooing, blue-gray birds at the edge of our roof attract hungry raptors, which sometimes makes for interesting entertainment. When our resident Red-tailed Hawks discovered the cache of food just outside the park, our roof became a regular hunting ground during Prospect Park's lean seasons. During raptor migration, Cooper's Hawks also try their hand at picking off an unwary "flying rat" from my roof. Cooper's Hawks and their smaller cousins, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, are notoriously difficult to tell apart. However, without even evaluating the relevant field marks, I would identify this particular individual as a cooper's. The largest Sharp-shinned Hawk is smaller than the smallest Cooper's Hawk and would have little chance of bagging a Rock Pigeon (or even try). According to "Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America", the average pigeon weighs about 9 ounces. Female Sharp-shinned Hawks weigh between 5 and 8 ounces. The raptor that was chasing pigeons outside my kitchen window appeared to be nearly twice the size of his prey. I'm not sure if she caught her breakfast on my roof, but given her very healthy proportions and current abundance of migrating songbirds, it's a good bet she didn't go hungry on Sunday.

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