Thursday, February 21, 2008

urban raptor observations

Last night, while walking up to the house at 1:20 am (on the way home from second shift), I saw my old friend, my neighborhood Great Horned Owl. He does not make his presence known very frequently, but I have heard him for a number of years, during all seasons. This was, however, the first time I have ever actually seen him (and I do think it is a male, judging from size). There are plenty of rabbits in this very urban setting, surprisingly enough, so I imagine he is doing alright.

Then today, I had an immature Cooper's Hawk catch, kill and eat a Mourning Dove right outside my window. This is the 3rd COHA I've seen here in the last two weeks (all different birds, two adults, one of each sex, and this big immature female today), but the first time I am sure that one of these accipiters "connected". I have mostly Mourning Doves and House Sparrows attending my feeder, rarely a few starlings, and only one cardinal, one time, within months. I don't attempt to dissuade the House Sparrows here, despite my aversion to their invasive habits and effects on native cavity-nesters. Here in this inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood, there are no native cavity-nesters for them to interfere with! So I leave them be. I think the COHAs are more interested in the doves: a bigger and better meal. Which leaves the House Sparrow tribe with not much to fear. The day before yesterday, one of the COHAs (a smallish adult male) was perched right on the edge of the porch railing for quite a few minutes. Within about 5 minutes of his departure, all of the passerines and doves returned. They kept lifting their heads to gaze nervously in the direction he went, though --- so fear must be a grand motivator of behavior even for these sparrows. After all, how would they know the COHAs really want mostly to eat the doves?

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