Friday, August 30, 2013

Day hawk encounter

Spa day for the girls, a dust bath
Although I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for nighthawks, I did have an encounter with a “day hawk” last evening.

I’ve been letting the chickens out in the evenings when I get home. After issues with raccoons, fox and opossums, I no longer feel it is safe for them to roam free when I’m not at home.  They were not happy with this new directive, so we compromised. I let them out when I get home, and since they can’t tell time, they don’t seem to mind that their roaming is only limited to an hour or so each evening.

Last night they’d only been out about 30 minutes when I heard Doodle, my Rhode Island Red rooster, give his alarm call.  Now Doodle is a vigilant rooster. He keeps a wary eye on anything that might be trouble for his girls. To him, this can mean the neighbor’s cat is crossing the forest, anxious to get back home to dinner, or it might be a very high and distant turkey vulture that’s passing not very near by. But this alarm call sounded a bit different, so I went out to investigate.

Doodle was standing in the middle of the driveway, all puffed up, looking as large as he could.  Since he is a Rhode Island Red, this is pretty impressive.  He stands almost knee-high, with large spurs and lots of feathers. The girls were all scurrying to hide under the nearest bush.  At first I didn’t see any cause for all this alarm, but then I heard a sound—kek-kek-kek-kek—coming from an oak tree not very far from the edge of the cabin.  A Cooper’s Hawk.

It didn’t take very long before my presence made the hawk nervous.  It left its tree, glided past the house through the forest and disappeared.  I was left to be impressed by my chickens.  After all those years of domestication and being hatched at a hatchery somewhere, growing up with only me as their mother, their instincts are still well-honed.  Isn’t that a beautiful thing?  They are still birds who know what an alarm by their rooster means and know the difference between the near-innocuous alarm raised by the sight of a distant turkey vulture and the danger posed by a nearby Cooper’s Hawk.  The girls rock!

1 comment:

Scott said...

Could the Cooper's hawk take one of the chickens? Aren't they about the same size? Maybe it would kill the chicken and eat the bird in place rather than carry it away. I've seen Cooper's hawks take turkey chicks here at my preserve, but that's when the chicks are much smaller.