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An Unwanted Visitor

This young Cooper’s Hawk had no choice but to pose for pictures.

On Sunday, August 20, the unbelievable occurred. The Breeze chicken lot was visited by a hawk. The lot is secure. It is covered by green vinyl coated poultry fencing with openings far too small to allow any hawk-sized intruder to pass.

The hawk was not happy. It could not escape. After posing for cell-phone photos, the avian was allowed to escape through an open door.

Betsy Allen was able to identify the bird from the photos as an immature Cooper’s Hawk. Juveniles have whitish-buff below with narrow, brown streaking on the breast and upper belly and have yellow eyes.

Betsy also discovered the manner in which the hawk made entry into the lot. It was through a narrow slit between sections of the fencing that cover the lot. Originally, the sections were joined. Over the years, the weight of heavy snow has caused the sections to break free from their bindings.

Cooper’s Hawks are noted for hitting their prey at high speeds in bushy areas. Researchers have determined that almost one third of all adults have suffered broken wishbones from hitting vegetation while making high speed attacks.

Apparently, the visiting hawk mistook the green vinyl to be vegetation and hit it at high speed as it attempted to dive upon a six-week old chick. The hit allowed seam between fence sections to open a passageway into the lot. The hawk did not get to enjoy a meal. Mother hen and all ten of her six-week old chicks retreated into the safety of the chicken house.

Cooper’s Hawks are big eaters. A Cooper’s Hawk can eat food weighing 12% of its body weight in one day. This is similar to a 120-pound person eating 14 pounds of food or about four or five large pizzas one day.

The Cooper’s Hawk is unusual in that females are up to one third larger than males. In the fall, females migrate south before males, but in the spring the males migrate north before the females do.

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