We were enjoying a lazy New Year’s Eve afternoon, when I heard a tell-tale thump at the sun room window. I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of thumps. We have them on occasion at our house, and they come in two varieties. One is usually a louder “thump” when on rare occasions a bird flies head-long into a window (usually this one 2nd floor window). For those thumps, I check out the area around the window, and try to assist any dazed bird I may find. However, the thump we just heard this afternoon is the 2nd kind of thump. It’s a softer thump, one that always happens at our sunroom window, by the bird feeders, and is usually accompanied by a puff of feathers. The second thump is a sign that “Clyde”, our winter resident Cooper’s Hawk, has chased another bird into the window and made a capture. That’s his preferred attack mode, as he screams around the corner of the house towards the bird feeders, and very often, corners one against the wall or window.
Upon hearing the thump, I went over to see if I could see Clyde. It’s not often Clyde hangs around when he makes a capture. He’ll grab his food, and often head to the back fence to consume his prey. However, when I went over to the window and looked down, there was a hawk with a fresh capture. Clyde!! Up close! But upon inspection, it was obvious this wasn’t Clyde!
It’s hard telling apart Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks. They’re virtually identical in terms of plumage. There’s a bit of a difference in the tail, and the Sharp-shinned is the smaller of the two species, but otherwise…it’s often a tough call. This guy looked small compared to Clyde, and based on the pattern of streaks on his underside, my best guess is that this is a first-year’s Sharp-shinned Hawk.
The prey this time…an American Goldfinch. Bummer. I much prefer when they deplete my abundant House Sparrow population, but we have had 3 or 4 dozen Goldfinches around most days as well. I’ve also seen Clyde catch Black-capped Chickadees, and once, a Downy Woodpecker.
I wonder if Clyde knows he has competition! It will be interesting watching over the next several weeks, seeing if both of them stick around, and if there’s ever any conflict between them as they use the same feeding grounds.