Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cooper's Hawk takes Rock Pigeon

Click to view a substantially larger image.
Almost all of the birds we observe at our feeders are the native species one would expect in cottage country. Exceptions include three European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that showed up for the first time this past month. Only once before have Martha and I seen feral Rock Pigeons (Columba livia) from our property, a high-flying flock that wheeled over our bay, heading west in high gear last September. We know of a few small flocks, several km to the north and south, that take advantage of the shelter and nesting opportunities afforded by bridges along Highway 28. Perhaps it was such an overflying trio that observed the many Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) and Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) at our feeders on April 23rd. The pigeons landed, tasted the cracked corn and so joined the list of 30 or so other species we've observed at the feeders. Since then, the same three Rock Pigeons have visited two or three times each day.

Late this morning, I glanced out the window and saw the three Rock Pigeons feeding along side a mixed flock of 30 or so blackbirds. The birds suddenly scattered - they are often startled by the construction-related traffic at the barge landing on our neighbour's lot. I then saw a fair-sized bird make contact with one of the fleeing Rock Pigeons and the two cartwheeled to the grass, just down slope from the feeders.

I called Martha from the kitchen and over the next five minutes, we watched the Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) subdue and pluck the hapless dove. We were able to get a few blurry pictures by "digiscoping" our Coolpix 4500 against an 8 x 40 binocular objective. Our observations ended when an approaching motorboat flushed the hawk, which flew down slope to the east with its prey in its talons.

The pictures convey the rest of the story.

Our resident Canada Geese, celebrated below in their routing of a Red Fox, were unruffled by this particular predator. Indeed the two geese approached, on webbed feet, to within five metres of the hawk and quietly observed the pigeon's demise.

The two other Rock Pigeons returned to the feeder an hour or so later.

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