Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Accipiters ruled the day!!
While out birding Monday with members of the local Audubon Society we were all treated to a tremendous day of Accipiter's. What defines an accipiter? Well a simple answer to this is that they are a group of hawks that are distinguished by short, broad wings and relatively long legs, adapted for fast flight. There are three that make up this group in North America. The Sharp-shinned Hawk which is the smallest. The Cooper's Hawk which is the mid sized one and the Northern Goshawk which is the biggest of all three.The Goshawk is not usually seen this far south (North Carolina) and would be a very special find. These birds are incredible predators. Capable of taking down prey that is much larger than themselves. I remember one day while at the Montclair Hawk-watch in New Jersey there was a Sharp-shinned Hawk attacking a Great Horned Owl with complete disregard. The Great Horned Owl weighs in at just over 3lbs while the sharpie (slang for Sharp-shinned) weighs in around 5ounces. Could you imagine if sharpies were the size of Eagles, small children or animals under 50 pounds would not be safe! So you can imagine how exciting they are to watch. In the past 15 years the Sharp-shinned Hawks numbers have dwindled greatly. Excluding migration one would be lucky to see one in a day here in the Piedmont of North Carolina.We ended our day with 7 Coopers Hawks and 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks. Our last viewing was at the Pineville Water Treatment Plant. We watched a Juvenile Coppers Hawk mounting his fresh kill. He had attacked and killed an American Coot. The Coot is a duck like bird that dives for aquatic plant life. As we watched him footing his meal he stared at us intently. Seemingly warning us not to mess with him. After some pulling and tugging he fully mounted his prey and with a few harsh wing beats he was airborne and off to a safe place to enjoy his bounty. An incredible site to see ! Attached are two photo's of a Adult Female Sharp-shinned Hawk that posed on a wire inside of a local quarry just an hour before the end of the day.