The other morning, I am about to head out and run an errand. Like usual, I'm having a look out the back window as I grab my phone, keys, etc. I spot a good sized Hawk in the yard next door and quickly realize he is on something, a bird of some sort.
At first I am thinking "shit, not a Red-winged!"
Don't ask about the tote lid on their back lawn. That's a story for another day.
I figure the bird, which I soon realized is a European Starling, is dead. One would think so as the Hawk is tearing away at it like in the shot below.
But it's not.
The Hawk is watching a couple Squirrels watching it. At this point I am still thinking the bird is dead.
I miss the moment when one of the Squirrels charges at the Hawk. It takes flight, the Starling in it's talons, and that is when the Starling begins to scream. Damn! A number of minutes have passed already and as you can see in one of the photos, it was getting torn apart.
Now the encounter moves over to our backyard.
The lighting keeps changing from sunny breaks to clouding over. I can't keep up with my manual settings while I watch this from afar.
The Squirrels are still watching the Hawk, making such awful angry noises, scurrying up and down the trees.
Then I hear another awful noise. That poor Starling is still alive! How long has this been going on now? I can't really say but no matter what you think about the non-native Starling species, this was far too long. The bird thrashed about while being pinned under the Hawk.
I kept thinking... "please, just kill it, put it out of it's misery!" I was worried the Squirrels were going to go after the Hawk again and maybe the next time around, the Hawk might fly away and abandon it's prey. Then what?
Don't mind my crop jobs, taking out some of the clutter about the back as Spring cleaning is very much needed. Lighting still continuously changing too.
But I am sure that now the Starling is dead. Finally out of it's misery.
I went from the side of the house, going out the front door, to creeping up the far side of the yard and using our Holly bushes as cover. I'm still quite a distance from the Hawk and wasn't going to move in any closer. There was much going on in the yard still with screaming Sparrows and angry Squirrels. I used this as my advantage to get myself positioned for the pictures. I still had the pressing issue of getting out and running that errand.
A few more shots.
That second last one, hoo boy, the skull is now picked clean.
There goes the beak.
Squirrels are coming.
"You still here?" or "Do I have food on my face?"
It was at this point the Squirrels, well a brave one anyway, had enough of this Hawk in the territory and charged at it. I missed the shot once again. The Hawk took flight with the carcass and disappeared in the cedars just behind where it was eating. I lost sight of it from where I was, and then got up and left. I had that errand to run.
90 minutes later I am home again, and I have a peek outside. It's still pretty quiet for birds. A couple Red-wings making noise, one flies in, grabs a peanut from the feeder and is gone again.
Suddenly the cedars come to life, more than a dozen Blackbirds with a handful of Sparrows and Finches come flying out, seemingly fleeing for their lives. A few Squirrels are within, raising hell on this Hawk once again. The Hawk flies out, still with a good portion of the Starling in it's talons and disappears over the rooftops, not to be seen again that day.
It was one of the more unique Hawk moments I've encountered in our yard over the years.
I have asked for assistance in ID'ing this Hawk. I've gotten pretty good at Cooper's vs Sharp-shinned especially in our yard when I see them perched and can take long looks at them. A few of my expert bird buds have given me their 2 cents, and with defining detail about the bird to strengthen the reason for their ID. But one says "Sharpie", 2 others say "Cooper's".
Since this is not a lifer bird for me, not a new species to the backyard, I think I will chalk it up as "Unique Hawk Moment" and a story to tell. What do you think?