Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Death Rocket

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
11 comments
Northern cardinal male. We have one less of these on the farm this morning.

First thing this morning, while I was talking on the telephone with a hick buddy from West Virginny, the death rocket came blasting past the studio window.

This was a big female sharp-shinned hawk and she swooped up into feet-forward position to grab a male northern cardinal. Her piercing talons must have killed the redbird instantly because he hung limp as she pumped her wings and propelled the two of them into the sumac thicket. Entering the thicket at full speed, she turned just so, and did not disturb a single snowflake from the branches as she passed.

The entire event took less than three seconds. The sharpie was in blurry, fluid motion the entire time. Many of the birds at the feeders next to the birch tree were so surprised that they did not have time to react. And in the aftermath, no one dared visit the feeders for half an hour, despite the ice and snow covering everything.

Nature red in tooth and claw...


Sharp-shinned hawk at our feeders last spring.

11 comments:

On December 16, 2008 at 11:02 AM Jayrod said...

AWESOME. Top of the food chain baby!!

On December 16, 2008 at 1:55 PM Anonymous said...

Wait! Can't we write captions for ALL of you posts, BOTB?

Seriously, tho, love the sharpie encounter.

Jess

On December 16, 2008 at 5:10 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Jess:

Feel free to write captions! Lord knows I could use the creative assistance!

Jayrod: Thanks for the comment!

On December 16, 2008 at 9:07 PM Vickie said...

Amazing that you were watching right at that moment.

While waiting for a traffic light to change, I watched a Cooper's hawk land under a railroad trestle and ambush an unaware pigeon coming to roost. The pursuit occurred at traffic level and the speed and maneuvering of both birds made my heart race. After it was over, in a matter of seconds, I remember looking around me thinking, didn't anybody else see that?! The pigeon survived this one.

On December 16, 2008 at 9:34 PM Mary said...

I've seen a Cooper's carry a MODO...

A sharp-shinned waited for two hours a few weeks ago. I got some fine photos of him but didn't see any action.

Glad you saw his skills.

Mary

On December 16, 2008 at 9:34 PM KatDoc said...

I have a new ID for that redbird in your photo. A young, not-yet-birder was in my exam room today with his mom, his little brother and his cat. When I took the cat off for blood tests, I asked him to watch out the window for birds at our feeders. When I came back, he announced there was a "red vulture" in the tree. All I saw was a cardinal. the vulture must have flown the coop.

~Kathi

On December 17, 2008 at 5:32 AM Chad and Brandy said...

I have witnessed this same type of scene in our backyard with Coopers hawks. It is a little disturbing to watch first hand, but they are such magnificent animals and they have to eat too.

On December 17, 2008 at 12:41 PM OpposableChums said...

Several years ago, I was taking a lunch-break walk near Central Park when a sub-adult Red-tailed Hawk (one of Pale Male's offspring that year) sank its talons into a Pigeon on a ledge about four feet over my head. It was quite, uh...graphic.

Oddly, the Hawk then merely perched on the ledge next to the stunned Pigeon. Was it just practicing? Playing?

The two sat side-by-side for a moment and then simultaneously exploded into flight, the Hawk flying across 59th Street and back into the park, the Pigeon heading towards Columbus Circle, surely to drop dead in a few blocks.

Certainly, one of my more surreal natural encounters...

On January 4, 2009 at 10:43 AM deawarnken said...

I have had a red bird couple in my yard for over a year. The male was killed by a cat. I buried him. The female just sits in the bush alone now. She looks all around and will occasionally go up to their tree and call him. What will happen to her? Dea

On March 29, 2009 at 8:18 AM Bird Advocate said...

The ex was feeding birds in the back yard years back as I watched her. SWOOP! A Red-tailed Hawk came through and grabbed a sparrow about two foot from her hand.

On March 29, 2009 at 8:25 AM Bird Advocate said...

deawarnken said...

"I have had a red bird couple in my yard for over a year. The male was killed by a cat."

Now you know most of the cat fanciers say their cats don't kill healthy birds. That didn't apply to the nesting pairs of Mockingbirds and Blue Jays in my yard either.


[BACK TO TOP]