Lunch on the wing


As I walked through the kitchen this morning I caught a flash of blue-gray wings speeding through the back yard, where the feeders are, and knew it must be the hawk I’ve seen preying on the feeder birds a few times this winter. I had a look from the kittens’ room, and spotted him sitting on a broken tree behind the pond with a Goldfinch in his claws. I went quickly for the camera, and got off six pictures, of which this was the best. It’s a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, a common feeder bird predator. The plumage is mostly adult, but there are some white spots on the back, so this is probably a young bird born last year and still moulting into adult colors.

We have hawks like this one, or occasionally the larger but similar Cooper’s Hawk, trying to catch our feeder birds most winters. They often miss, and when they do succeed, it’s usually with Mourning Doves, which are larger and slower. This is the first time I’ve seen a Goldfinch taken. Some would be upset about it, but it’s nature’s way. Hawks have to eat too. This species preys on small songbirds, and feeders give them a good place to hunt. The hawk began pulling feathers off the Goldfinch to get at the flesh as I watched. Then our cat Tigger jumped up beside me, and the sharp-eyed bird caught the movement, and flew off with its lunch. Twenty minutes later the feeder birds were back eating as if nothing had happened. It’s always interesting to see nature’s struggle playing out just beyond our windows. Glad I’m on this side.

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