Thursday, January 21, 2016

Life and Death

The red shouldered hawk has been visiting the yard on a regular basis.  There are two and I assume they are a pair as I have seen them together in the spring.  Now they play the game of divide and conquer.  One flies high over the yard calling and whistling and the other flies into the back yard waiting ever so patiently near the bird feeders.  It is as if he is watching the Discovery channel episode of song birds.  The other day he landed beneath the feeders hidden in the scrub and seemed to be peering beyond the trunk of our large oak tree.  The birds did not act as if they feared his presence as they came and went at the bird feeders with regularity.  I could not get close enough for good photos, so while some were taken outside, most were taken through the window.

I was studying him with my binoculars when he swooped down behind the tree into the leaf cover and hunkered flat.  At first I thought he has missed the squirrel which took off from under his wing just before he landed, but after watching carefully I noticed he was eating something.  If you look at the area near his bill you can see he has something in his mouth.  When I used the binoculars I saw it was a worm snake, about 8 inches in length.  In this cold weather it seemed unusual for this reptile to be in the leaves, but clearly the hawk was sharp-eyed.

He came back later in the afternoon and waited on the snag above the bird feeders.  He sat there most of the afternoon and did not seem to mind when I stepped outside onto my deck as long as I stayed close to the house.

He flew closer to the feeders and kept his back to me so that he could fly away.

 ...And he was rewarded in a short while with the capture of a tiny titmouse which he grabbed in his claws and carefully plucked and ate while sitting on a nearby branch.  I do not mind the loss of a songbird, there are many more in my yard.  If he had lingered longer I would have, of course, brought in the bird feeders.

There is no doubt in my mind, he will be back when this big winter storm arrives.


  1. Terrific photos of a beautiful (unless you are a titmouse) bird.

  2. Terrific pics as usual- All my birds are blurry still- Trying to get downy woodpeckers from the window this week.
    I hate watching birds rip up other birds- like the crow murders raiding chicks from nests in the spring. Poor other birds who see it-

  3. It's a hard life for birds in the winter. I loved the picture of him sitting on the branch that had that greenish tinge, it was such a beautiful contrast to his russet feathers.

  4. You were privileged to watch something not many people see.

  5. I like what Red said. that was a privilege. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Such beauty and terror (for the prey) in one magnificent bird!

  7. They give great beauty to your yard. What wonderful pictures you get. Stay safe in the snow.

  8. we have several local red shouldered hawks. they visit my birdbaths in the summer when we are having long periods of no rain. they are so magnificent. I read that they didn't eat small birds, just small reptiles and rodents. well, your observation put the lie to that.


Glad to hear from you once again. I really like these visits. Come sit on this log and tell me what you are thinking.