juvenile coopers hawk in the grass The Saga
Rufous Hawk

Chapter 26

Graduation Time (Almost)

July 27, 2014

Today the oldest of the young hawks is 56 days old (to the best of my calculations). It is a significant milestone, because, according to the experts, the juvenile hawk's feathers are hard-penned at this age. The blood that once flowed through the shaft of each feather, allowing it to grow, has now dried up, leaving mature feathers. The important flight feathers are now "hard-penned" to the bone, and the juvenile hawks can maneuver through the trees and hunt with less risk to their fragile "blood" feathers.

As if to put their feathers to the test, today two of the juvenile hawks decided to try squirrel hunting. I watched as one approached a squirrel on the ground, with wings and tail spread in "attack mode." The squirrel turned to confront him, and he stopped dead-still. He surely must have been thinking, "What the heck do I do now??" Both squirrel and hawk turned and fled.

A second hawk hopped about in the cypress tree only a couple of feet above a squirrel. Why do the little hawks expend so much energy pursuing squirrels? Probably because the squirrels move about, attracting attention. AND the hawks know that, even though birds are their top menu item, squirrels too are FOOD.

Stalker Stalker Stalker

The squirrel casually munched on a snack, while keeping one eye on the hawk in case he needed to make a quick exit.

July 30, 2014

This morning, all four of the juvie hawks were in the trees along the west side of our canal. With a pair of binoculars, I watched two of them corner a squirrel on the ground. But they were not cooperating; they were competing! While hawk #1 was chasing hawk #2 away, the squirrel escaped into a nearby tree. The hawks flew about, seeming to quarrel with each other. Then their siblings joined in the action. It must be very difficult for one of them to catch anything. As soon as he draws a bead on potential prey, his siblings rush in and blow his cover!

Continue to Chapter 27: Goodbye Young Hawks!