The Hawks are Back

I opted to wait until mid-morning to take my walk. OK, scratch that, I’d slept in and since it was still heavily overcast and in the low 40s, figured I could stroll without incurring the wrath of dermatologist since I’d be in dark glasses, a hat, and gloves. I got to the end of the block and observed a commotion in the grass of a yard. I tried to detour, but it wasn’t far enough, and three Mississippi kites erupted from the grass. Two attacked each other, talons locking in mid-air, then breaking apart. The third, a larger female, settled onto the top of a tree down the next block. After another aerial spat, one of the males joined her.

Note to self, time to wear a hat at all times, even in the pre-dawn mornings. The kites are back, and they dive-bomb anyone who gets too close to the nests. I’ve been thumped before by fisted talons.

A pair of Coopers hawks are also hanging around. One of them blasted past at head-height last week, in hot pursuit of something. They tend to soar higher, and are not as sleek as the kites. Nor do they seem as possessive of their turf, although I’m not going to go poking around whichever tree they have chosen to nest in. I like having my skin and eyes intact, thank you.

The kites arrived early, showing up one evening in late April. Then they vanished. I didn’t start seeing or hearing them until two weeks ago, and they’ve really taken over this week.


25 thoughts on “The Hawks are Back

  1. We have a pair of red-tails that have settled in somewhere nearby. I see them sometimes on my morning walks as they “preside” over our 6-lane highway. Red tails seem to do well in urban settings and I get a kick out of asking my neighbors if they’ve noticed. The kids do and will be excited to talk about seeing the hawks. But the adults, almost never. We’ve had a mated pair off the same I-94 intersection for years now, and almost no one I know spots them. We’re pretty urban, 13 miles north of the Loop, but we have Coopers Hawks and Sharpies in our smallish back yard neighborhood pretty regularly. Yesterday, our annual Rosebreasted Grosbeak visit began. They arrive every May, usually the 12th or 13th. Wrens are nesting and the Orioles are stopping at my orange and jelly feeder before they nest to the North of us. Best time of year for up-close birding in your yard.

    • The hummingbirds are back, the wren hangs around all year, and we now have what I call “intersection flycatchers.” They are robin sized, with pale yellow breasts, and wait at road intersections for cars to pass and stir up the bugs.

    • Red-tails have a wide range of prey – mice, rats, voles, rabbits, lizards, snakes… the one consistent point is that they attack stuff on the ground. They can thrive anyplace that there are wide open spaces with high perches nearby where they can sit and watch for prey. They simply ADORE divided highways with wide grassy medians and verges. Sadly, watching for hawks along the highway is quite difficult. I have never figured out how to drive and watch for hawks at the same time.

      The other raptor that does surprisingly well in some urban areas is the Peregrine Falcon. Anywhere that you find tall buildings and robin-to-pigeon-size birds, you might find a peregrine.

      Cooper’s and sharpies are bird predators. Large bird feeding stations are like an all-you-can-eat buffet for a Cooper’s.

      • The Coopers have kept the doves alert and the grackles wary. I have no qualms about luring grackles to a predatory end.

  2. We have a mated pair of large hawks nesting … probably danger close. Think it’s red-tailed, from an alarming closeup. Something went THUMP-SCRABBLE on the roof, then fell in front of the sliding door. Squirrel? Noooo … they don’t stand about 20″ tall with a beak like that. Lofted into a tree (about 40″ wingspan), and I wasn’t about to follow for a picture.

    • Correction: about 26″ tall. Measured its height against doorframe, conservatively, then added height above deck.

      No problems with bunnies last or this year, but neighbors’ chickens are nervous.

  3. Kites WILL get your attention… I think I saw a Mississippi Kite day before yesterday, but haven’t seen it since.

  4. For depressing symbolism, we have three to five big, red-headed, classic vultures… which are hanging out on the barn behind our house, and have since about three weeks prior to the lockdown.

    • *giggle* There’s a vulture rookery in the very old money neighborhood in town, much to the disgust of the home owners. When I was at Flat State U, some migrating vultures caused much distress when they overnighted on the roofs of a set of garden apartments. The apartments were part of a retirement community, and the residents were Not Amused.

      • Vultures get a lot of undeserved bad press. How many other animals can eat week-old roadkill and not get sick from it?

        • Now I’m thinking of Patrick Lee. But no, he demands fresh. And I think even Smiley would stay clear.

          • Just a note, any predator will eat dead animals that it hadn’t killed.

            Of course, most would likely prefer freshly killed animals. đŸ˜‰

    • Vultures are awesome. Obviously you have some nice warm air currents nearby, and they also trust the area to be a good provider of yums. They were always hanging out by the golf course in one of my old neighborhoods.

      Probably hoping that you and your husband will go hunting.

      • My guess is that we’re in the sweet spot between the road, corn fields and the gardens in town, now that you mention it. Dead deer *and* dead racoons. (although not from us)

        I’m still grumpy the owl is in hiding, though.

    • One of the odder things in metro Chicago is a pair of Bald Eagles who have nested in the Skokie Lagoons well north of the City. With a sharp eye out, you can spot one from time to time. And the Lagoons themselves can be challenging to the unwary. The locals get called out at least once a year when an “innocent” gets lost and is reported missing. Makes me smile.

  5. Currently, in NC, we have a breeding pair of hawks living in the trees near our house. We haven’t had any close encounters involving best guarding but they do hunt in our back yard. Usually juvenile rabbits. Not sure what species.
    When we lived in CA, there were 2 breeding pairs of Coolers or Sharpies living in the eucalyptus trees at our property line. One year, one pair decided to use our jumping arena for the eyases’ first flights. We had front row seats as the young ones would awkwardly flap and glide down to one of the jumps, landing on one of the standards or on the rails. Momma and papa hawk were on the roof of the barn chattering and scolding the youngsters. One of the best afternoons ever.

  6. When I was in graduate school I rode my bicycle to campus every morning I could. At the time there was a stretch of road with meadow/wetland on one side— alas, long since developed into concrete boxes. There were abundant red-winged blackbirds and the occasional kite. I almost always stopped to watch the kites hovering — such grace!

  7. I have to say that I have _never_ seen any raptors wanting to mess with humans. Of course, a lot of them nest on tall roofs or in reasonably inaccessible trees, so they wouldn’t worry about humans.

    Crows, on the other hand, I have seen harassing a young redtail hawk. He was awfully confused about the situation, but finally abandoned pride and just flew the heck away from the crows and found his own tree.

  8. We have some hawks nearby. A bobcat (not mechanical) was once seen in the neighborhood. We have many squirrels. There are dogs often walked. We’re more of a dog than a cat neighborhood. The avian predators (have sometimes seen carcasses) explain why any cats in the area are strictly indoor residents. I live a northern suburb of Dallas. My county is classified as urban. Works for me. I’m a city girl at heart. I consider the ‘burbs to be my natural habitat.

    • RedQuarters is urban (the city grew around it) and we have: coyotes, foxes, possums, Coopers hawks, Mississippi kites, great horned owl, skunks, no more rabbits or field mice (disappeared when foxes arrived. How odd . . . ) And lots of dogs and cats and kids. And some semi-ferel teenagers, although those have been sparse this spring.

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