Thursday, December 19, 2013

When a Hawk Looks You in the Eye

Not too long ago I watched a first year Cooper’s Hawk take down a squirrel.  The hunt was purposeful; a needed meal.  I stood very still, some forty-five minutes, before I turned away.
The hawk’s process of living, and the squirrel’s process of dying, came more slowly than my inexperienced judgment would have guessed.  My watch was a meaningful learning experience.  I won’t pretend that my watch was easy; but it became a critical memory that changed my understanding of life and death.  This watch began my understanding that few of Mother Nature’s creation ever die quickly.

Whether this young Cooper’s Hawk relied solely on innate skills or came equipped from parental guidance, she was a skilled hunter:

Much of the time she kept her wings flared, hiding her prey from other predator’s view.  On occasion her focus included a quieting of her wings:


I was caught by surprise by her constant backward and upward looks.  This skilled hunter understood that she was most vulnerable to other predators while focused on her meal:

I choose not to detail what I watched; what I learned; what were the sounds of life and death.  I am not an ornithologist.  I cannot tell you the percentage of instinct; the percentage of training that brought her to this day.
But I can tell you that when this hawk stopped, and looked me in the eye, I saw the intelligence of a wild thing.  The intelligence of Mother Nature’s creation that surpasses human understanding:


  1. Thanks for the insightful look at nature at work. RC

  2. That was very interesting. Also, reminds me of the nature shows I like to watch on channel 8. It is hard to watch an animal being attacked by another and consumed. But, that's survival in their world and we have to respect their way of life. Which reminds me that as humans we too should respect others and lately that has sadly not been the case. Hope all is well. Susan

  3. I saw a cooper's hawk eating a bunny once at Bosque Del apache a couple years ago, and it was already dead so not suffering was seen. The hawk was ignoring me while he ate, and was efficient in his work!

    Great pictures and great analysis!


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