Smart or Stupid Hawk

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Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 643
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:20 pm
Location: So. Central TX
Martin Colony History: All Troyer Horizontal Gourds with Conley Entrances
PMCA Member since 2004

A hawk has been threatening our martins, especially when they come in for the evening. We have two poles so my husband and I have started going out about ten minutes before they start coming in. We each stay close to a pole. For the first few evenings we didn’t see a hawk but last night that changed. All the birds had come in and suddenly out of nowhere a hawk flew in, landed at the base of my pole no more than 2 feet from me. He took off as suddenly as he appeared. I was shocked at how quick it all happened and he had come and gone so fast that it took a while for my brain to catch up to reality. I don’t think he got a bird because I’m pretty sure they were all inside. What I can’t figure out is why he went to the ground right in front of me. I’m not sure who was more surprised, him or me.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Sharon,

I have seen this happen a number of times in my various martin colonies and what I have observed is that the hawk either caught a martin and briefly pinned it to the ground or barely missed a martin that bolted downward from his nest and the hawk struck the ground instead. Another possibility is that the hawk may have landed on the ground and was trying to be somewhat "hidden" from view of incoming martins. Then he could power up and try to snatch one around the gourds.

Accipiter hawks are clever and deadly when hunting martins late in the evening at roosting time. These hawks hunt well in dim light and will be inside a martin colony before you and the martins even know it!

And our presence around the martin colony doesn't always keep these hawks away. I have had them come by me and I could have almost grabbed the hawk! All I heard was the "rush of air" as the hawk rocketed over my head!

Many of these hawk attacks on martin colonies in the Deep South at this time of the year are probably being made my migrant/wintering hawks. Large numbers of Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks winter in the Deep South often along the gulf coastal areas. There are Cooper's hawks nesting in Texas so there is always a possibility that some of the hawks are residents. Nearly all sharp-shinned hawks are most likely migrants in Texas.

So hopefully your hawk is a migrant/wintering raptor and he/she will soon be moving north. Any Cooper's hawk you see in May or later in your area would be a resident most likely.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
loco for purple
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:06 pm
Location: arlington/texas

For the past two weeks I’ve been going out about thirty minutes before the martins come in because a Cooper hawk had started attacking at dusk . In my experience it’s best to be away from the poles because the hawk more than likely dose not know you’re there . The hawk will already be inside the colony and can easily snatch a Martin before you can even react. The martins are extremely vulnerable at this time because they’re not paying attention and there’s usually no other martins flying around to sound a hawk alarm .
It’s best to be visible outside the colony so the hawks can see you . There have been numerous times where I actually see the hawk coming across the field for an attack. Once I blast my air horn in the direction of the hawk it becomes startled and will quickly change direction and return to the woods . I have stepped outside my fence just before a hawk was getting ready to come across the field for an attack and watch it turn around when it sees me . I just laugh . For some reason the hawks tend to attack at the same time everyday . That hawk will probably be back at the same time unless it’s fed or moved on migrating . Good luck 👍
Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 643
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:20 pm
Location: So. Central TX
Martin Colony History: All Troyer Horizontal Gourds with Conley Entrances
PMCA Member since 2004

Steve and Loco,
Thank you to the both of you for your input. We have an air horn but the direction this (these) hawks come from are so hidden by the oak trees we don’t see him/her coming in time to use it. But we’ll take it with us just in case. And Steve you may be right about him grabbing a martin and taking it to the ground. We had new arrivals yesterday and there were two going from gourd to gourd looking for one after the others were inside. I had hoped they found one. The martins were apprehensive about coming in last night and after the hawk attack we think they were aware of one somewhere close by. They came in fast like a jet landing on an aircraft carrier. They didn’t waste any time getting inside.
And it is either a Coopers or sharp shinned. He won’t slow down enough for us to get a good look. I did see a coopers further away sitting on a bluebird house the other day. Last year we had a pair that hung around pretty much all the time. I know it’s nature’s way but it’s sad that these beautiful birds made the trip all the way to So. America at the end of last season and then made it back this year only to become a hawk’s dinner. :|
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