This was a thrilling urban wildlife observation.

On my way into work I caught the red light at Rosemeade Parkway and Marsh Lane. As is often the case at intersections like this one, a large number of birds congregate on the crisscrossing power lines. European Starlings and Rock Doves (feral pigeons) are the majority in this case. There is also a power station at this location, and the birds seem to be attracted to it.

As I came to a stop, I noticed that the birds were stirred up. Most were airborne, and many were maneuvering wildly. Often this kind of behavior indicates that there is a marauding hawk in the area, so I started scanning the sky looking for one.

Almost immediately I noticed an American Kestrel flying among the starlings. He was giving chase, but only in a playful way. I thought it was odd that a kestrel, which only a little larger than a starling, and much smaller than a Rock Dove, could agitate the birds to this degree.

As the light turned green, I made a mental note of what I had seen, and then I proceeded through the intersection. Just as I was crossing Marsh Lane, I noticed another group of pigeons fly up out of the power station, and head straight for my truck.

Driving by, I turned toward the side window for a better look, and I was amazed to see an adult Cooper’s Hawk swoop down out of nowhere. The hawk deftly nabbed a pigeon out of the air, and took him down in the grassy median between the two lanes of Rosemeade Parkway.

All this happened just outside my window. It was very thrilling. I was stunned as I drove on. I was also incredibly disappointed that I hadn’t gotten the episode on film.

Nearing the George Bush Expressway, I made the decision to go back, and at least try to get some photographs. With the complication of rush hour traffic I didn’t expect that I would have the opportunity to get good shots. Still, I had to try.

I turned around, and as I approached the original location I could tell that the hawk was no longer there. I pulled into a nearby parking lot, and started scanning the tall grass in a vacant lot just across the street from where the hunt took place.

After a moment or two, I noticed feathers floating up from a weedy area and drifting away in the wind. The hawk was on the far side of the vacant lot, but fortunately he was very close to the parking lot of a convenience store.

I drove over to that parking lot, where I found I had a clear view of the hawk at only a distance of about 25 yards/meters. From there, I proceeded to take as many pictures as I could.

DateNovember 8, 2011
Time of DayMorning
TemperatureCool (50-69°F/10-21°C)
HabitatUndeveloped-Vacant Lot
Type of BehaviorHunting
ObserverChris Jackson

3 Replies to “Cooper’s Hawk – Out of the Blue”

  1. Wow. Glad you made it through this thrill ride safely – I would probably have crashed my car, trying to get a good look at the excitement. So glad you turned around and went back. Great photos. The hawk’s “leggings” are incredible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.