Friday, August 31, 2007

Hawk vs. Crows

We were heading out tonight for a little family dinner to kick off the holiday weekend. As I was putting Child One into her seat I noticed three crows in the large tree in our neighbor's front yard. I said "look at the crows" and she didn't say anything. I asked if she saw them and she said "yeah." She was really engrossed by what she was seeing. Another crow flew into the tree, and then another pair. She asked me what the last bird on the wire was, and I said "probably another crow." "No," she said. "Come see."

Now, I bailed early from work today and came home and started to get the Quarter Acre in shape -- the lawn and beds are a disaster. Our cars were parked in the street and I had backed them into the drive way. Child One's booster is on the passenger side, and when we pull into the driveway head first her seat is usually on the opposite of where it was tonight. If we had not been backed in we might have missed this entire series of events.

Anyway . . . some branches in the tree in which the six Corvi now sat blocked my view of their original perch -- which was the utility wires that run up the street. So, at child one's request I changed my vantage point to see the bird she was asking me about. It was, what I believe to be, a good sized Harris Hawk. It had been sitting amongst the crows. I called Mrs. Agricola over to see and she grabbed Child Two. The hawk sat on the wire for a moment and then flew into the tree, a little distance from the crows. The crows were agitated, and giving off occasional warning calls -- a throaty, very clattering "cawwwwwwww cawwwwww."

The hawk went into action and chased one of the crows out of the tree. It was a cool sight because the hawk seemed to be about the same size as the crows (these crows are huge and the Harris is not as large as a Red Tail -- one of which we saw just before dinner, this one also spotted by Child One, the little hawk-finder). It flapped powerfully after the crow -- which was taking evasive action -- and took a swipe at its back. They flew away and I thought it was over. My neighbor had come out to watch because her dog was going crazy, and a neighbor down the street was out with binoculars because her dog must have been reacting to the events too.

As the hawk chased the first crow the other crows flew out of the tree in the direction of their chased comrade. A handful of the crows and the hawk returned to the tree very quickly (upon the return of the birds I ran in and grabbed my camera).

The hawk is just about in the center of this shot, diagonally down, and to the right of the lowest, right-most crow. Click to see the full size shot.

They sat there for a bit and then the hawk chased the crows down the street, again strafing one of the black birds along the back. I don't think the hawk actually made contact, but it must have scared the crow -- it was exciting to watch. I've seen crows and jays chase hawks, often in tandem, but I've never seen a hawk chase a crow. Nor have I ever seen them sitting so close to one another. This Harris Hawk is most likely the same one that I've seen around the Quarter Acre -- though I've only heard it this summer and not seen it since the spring.

I've had some other cool raptor sightings this summer, about which I'll blog after Labor Day. This encounter, however, was, by far, the coolest, and most interesting.

1 comment:

Still here... said...

That's awesome! You can cancel your subscription to the Nature Channel on your cable package!