The Feeder Feed: DEATH FROM ABOVE edition

I was sitting at my desk, writing the entry about Fr. Finigan’s annd Fr. Blake’s comments on the Mass at Glasgow and ….

I saw the birds at the feeders scattering.  Something large had hit the window next to my desk.

I figured it was one of the dopey Mourning Doves.

I stood up to see what happened and spotted a new visitor to the feeder… a different sort of feeder.

We stared at each other for a while.

Then he … she? … went into the bushes under my window to get, I suspect, the fallen prey.

I will go out later to see what it might have been, if anything is left.

I am thinking Broad-Winged Hawk.


More than one of you have written to say that this is Accipiter striatus… Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

I am not so sure.  The tail is very like.

Anyone else?

I am still thinking Buteo platypterus Broad-Winged Hawk.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. irishgirl says:

    Oooo….big bird there, Father Z! Good thing you were inside when you took the pictures!

    ‘Dopey mourning doves’-you’re right about that! If they’re sitting in the road, they don’t fly away until you’re almost on top of them! I always say, ‘Look out, or you’re going to become squabs!’

    ‘DEATH FROM ABOVE’-good one!

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Maybe a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk (they’re sometimes hard to tell apart) The banded, rounded tail and streaked breast make me think that.

    All the hawks are bold as brass. Our resident Red-Tail hangs out around the house in low trees or even on a fence. Once he stood on the low branch of a tree ten feet from my camera and ate his dinner (a chipmunk) without sparing a glance for any of us.

  3. robkphd says:

    Am I the only one who sometimes has trouble with images from WTDPRS in Firefox? The images don’t appear in Firefox, but do for IE.

    The best I can tell is that the images in the html are written with “www”, for example, “” but my Firefox has a fit with that – it seems to want it as “” (without the www). Is this on my side, or is there a .htaccess on the WDTPRS server that is causing a redirect difficulty? I love WDTPRS, but I really dislike IE.

  4. Frank H says:

    robkphd – Occasionally I encounter this picture phenomenon in Firefox, but I just hit refresh and the photos appear.

  5. Desertfalcon says:

    Very cool, Father. IMHO, she is a Sharp-shinned Hawk. “She”, because it has less rust and slate blue/grey coloring than a male and a ‘Sharpie’ as opposed to a Coppers as the tail banding is more pronounced. The ‘Sharpie’ is a well known song-bird feeder hunter. Very nice, clear, pics!

  6. robkphd says:

    Thanks, Frank – that did the trick.

  7. Jason says:

    The mourning doves definitely need to all take a seminar on the dangers of playing in traffic. But they are ninja-like evasive geniuses compared to… ducks.

    I have tons of ducks in my neighborhood. They get in the street and don’t budge. Not out of some feline-like arrogance but out of stupidity. You can tell by the look on their, uh, faces. Blowing the horn doesn’t work. Rolling down the window and yelling “get out of the way duck” doesn’t work. You just have to wait them out.

    They’ve also taken to imitating the behavior of the regulars you find in the suburban world down here, either out of envy or a noble desire to assimilate.

    There’s nothing funnier than watching a duck trying to land on the roof of a house. They’re waterfowl so they’re used to having a landing strip of sorts. They come down to the water, legs up, and belly glide in the water for a few feet to land. That approach doesn’t quite work out when you’re landing on the roof of a house. The process is basically: thud- bounce- stumble- get on your feet and look around to see if anybody saw you.

    Another thing I found quite impressive is their ability to balance on a power line. Surely this is not natural to them, webbed feet and all. But the other birds do it. I haven’t seen it often but it’s quite a sight to watch a pretty hefty duck balance on a power line.

    I think I’ll take a photo next time I see it and post it.

  8. Magpie says:

    This happened us once. We had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk hit the patio window, along with the greenfinch it was pursuing. The finch died; the hawk lived. It sat, stunned, for a few moments on the patio. It was an amazing site. Then, once it had regained its sense, it darted off at lightning speed. We were feeding the birds which does attract the hawks! They know what’s what.

  9. Vincenzo says:

    Z: “I will go out later to see what it might have been, if anything is left. I am thinking Broad-Winged Hawk.”

    click here


  10. smallone says:

    I dunno, but it looks kind of big for a sharpie (no objects to give me a sense of perspective). But I am guessing sharp-shinned hawk or another Accipiter.

  11. apagano says:

    Here’s an image of a broad-winged hawk. Personally agree with Father Z on this one. But then again…. It does look like a young sharp-shinned hawk


  12. Mike says:

    You may well be right.

    This morning, walking into my school with my two sons, age 17 and 14, TWO hawks got in a scuffle 100 over our heads in the trees overhanging the drive. Very cool.

  13. AnAmericanMother says:
  14. AnAmericanMother says:


    LOL! 82nd Airborne Hawk Ooorah!

  15. templariidvm says:

    Did you see the underside of the wings, Father? Given the width of the white bands on the tail, I tend to think it is a sharpie. Here is a good site that can help:

  16. Jason says:

    Nice one AAM! I used to hunt duck many years ago. My shotgun got swamped during Katrina and I decided not to replace it since I really didn’t use it anymore. Anyway, if I fired one in my neighborhood I’d run a”fowl” of the law.

    I live in Jefferson parish right on the border of eastern St. Charles parish, which is still undeveloped swamp south of Lake Pontchartrain. The hawks who live there know there are tasty duck snacks just across the parish line so they keep us from being over run by the quackers. But they have to brave suburban territory to do it. They are not timid. Nothing like going outside to see a hawk feasting on a duck on your neighbors front lawn.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Vincenzo’s art is scary.

    The birds in rural Missouri are totally clueless as to playing in the street. I have had to wait for not only doves, but robins, and even cardinals to get out of the way for my car when in the rural areas. They clearly have not “adapted” to over 100 years of automobiles, poor things.

  18. I think it is a first year Cooper’s Hawk. The eyes are yellow and not the red of an adult bird. Father, do you have a Sibley Guide to Birds? If so, page 112 shows both the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks. The vertical streaking on the breast is finer on a Cooper’s than a Sharpie. A Sharp-shinned is smaller, about the size of a Blue Jay. It’s difficult to guage the size of this hawk but it seems larger than that. Both of these accipitors are notorious for chasing prey into windows to stun them.
    The wingtips on a Broad-wing end just short of the tail tip. This hawk’s tail extends far beyond the wingtips. I think your hawk has the long tail of an accipiter.
    It’s a thrill to make eye contact with a raptor!

  19. Desertfalcon says:

    The reason I believe it is not a Broad Winged hawk is that Broad’s have almost tan and white breast coloring and they generally stick to forest areas and are not known for hunting bird feeders. This was has the dark very brown and white of a Sharpie or Coop. Coopers hawks, however, have much more muted tail stripping than Sharpies and this bird has very distinct tail stripes. It is very easy to confuse a Coopers hawk and a Sharpie however as they mostly just differ in size. It is a female and although I can’t tell the size exactly, from the grass blades I would still say ‘Sharpie’. They and Kestrels are classic bird feeder hunters.

  20. Desertfalcon says:

    Oh, boy. Poor grammar and too many “howevers”. Let’s hope my raptor recognition is better than my writing skills…

  21. AnAmericanMother says:


    It’s not strictly illegal here to fire off the shotgun (we’re in the unincorporated county) but given the size of the house lots it would be discourteous. I have been known to train in the back yard, but I use poppers or primed shells not full strength 12 ga duck loads.

    We usually hunt on friend’s farms in the country well outside of ATL. There are some nice ponds where ducks and geese congregate — a friend of ours in rural West Georgia is inundated with Canadas, and as soon as goose season opens a bunch of us take our dogs and our Remingtons and head out to thin the herd.

    But you’re right — mallard ducks are dumb as dirt. My three lady Labs can outsmart them every time.

    You must have some good sized hawks to be taking down ducks, unless they’re small teal.

  22. If Sharpies are that small (Blue Jay), then this was NOT a Sharpie. This hawk was much larger than a jay. Not as large as a Red Tailed, but pretty big.

  23. r.j.sciurus says:

    Sharpies have been known to fly through windows in search of Mystic Monk Coffee… As this bird obviously paused, one might conclude it’s not a Sharpie. Then again, it may know you don’t drink decaf……

  24. Supertradmum says:

    I go for the juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, of which there are many in the Midwest. Here is a link for a photo, but this particular bird looks more brown than your greyish blue. However, this photo is the California variety and birds on the other side of the Rockies are different.

  25. r.j.sciurus: In search of Mystic Monk Coffee? Really? Which blend draws them more, I wonder.

  26. Desertfalcon says:

    With Father’s comment on size and Supertradmum’s, I would go for an ID of an immature Cooper’s. The coloring is still not classic as Coop’s have the gradual white breast coloring as it goes toward the belly. This one does not, but it’s hard to get scale with the grass in the background and if it IS larger than a Jay than a Coopers is more likely. They really are very hard to tell apart and there is often a section in birder books dedicated to just that problem.

  27. What’s amazing to see is crows harassing a hawk to keep him out of their territory. I wonder if Father Z’s feeder has any corvine defenders?

  28. Supertradmom: Based on those photos, and if that critter it is tearing apart is a Mourning Dove, then I think what I had here may have been an immature Cooper’s Hawk. The size is right, yellow eyes, streaks on the breast. Accipiter cooperii also likes squirrels and chipmunks, which are abundant around the feeder.

  29. Jason says:

    AAM, mostly Mallards and the rest Muscovy. I think the Muscovy’s are stupider than the Mallards (bouncing off roofs and all). I don’t think the hawks can take the Muscovy’s. Too big. They can get the Mallards, though. I think they’re red shoulders but I’m not sure.

    Check out the area where I live. The demarcation line is the parish line canal. On the right, developed territory of Jefferson parish. On the left, good ol’ unmolested Louisiana marshland of St. Charles parish. The body of water to the north is Lake Pontchartrain. The river to the south obviously the Mississippi.

  30. Desertfalcon: It was a very large bird, not quite as large as a Red-Tailed, but not much smaller, either.

  31. wanda says:

    Vincenzo! Great work. GI Hawk.

    Those are great pictures, Father. I don’t know what kind of a hawk it is, but I’m glad you were behind the glass. What a face, I wouldn’t want to have a close encounter with that bird. The pictures are very good, with all the detail I’m sure that an identification will be made. Hey, those are nice leggings the hawk is sporting.

  32. Desertfalcon says:

    Yup, Cooper’s then.

  33. Robert_H says:

    Wanda – I have had a close encounter with a hawk that looks just like this one, right in my front yard. It was after the sparrows in a fencerow. It very coldly stared at me from about 20 feet away – clearly deciding if I was worth eating or not.

  34. irishgirl says:

    Vincenzo has done it again!


    I was ready to bust out laughing here in the bookstore when I saw his picture!

    Love it!

  35. Vincenzo says:

    irishgirl, you’re always at a library or a bookstore! :)

  36. adagio48 says:

    I suspect a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, thin dark streaks on chest, aswell as, the dark tip on its beak. Sibley Guide to Birds Vincenzo, you made my morning LOL

  37. Elizabeth D says:

    This is very clearly an accipter hawk (sharp-shinned or Cooper’s) and not a buteo hawk. Like others said it looks exactly like a juvenile Cooper’s hawk, and not at all like a broad winged hawk. I had a beautiful Cooper’s hawk THWUMP into my sliding glass door twice in a row one time, the most obvious explanation was she saw my (tasty looking, completely oblivious) African grey parrot sitting on the back of a chair inside, though someone knowledgeable told me that they sometimes test a window in order to then drive prey birds into it and kill them that way. It’s also possible that often they thwump into a window for the most obvious reason that accipters are swift flying under-forest-canopy hawks and they just don’t notice the glass.

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