Image via Wikipedia
Many backyard bird feeding enthusiasts have a true love/hate relationship with hawks.
When a “bushwhacking” hawk has been at work at your backyard feeders, the cycle of life can become just a bit too personal. However, seeing a Sharp-shinned Hawk blasting through the backyard in search of prey can provide a moment of exhilaration.
This cycle of life drama is natural and occurs whether or not you feed the birds.
Image via Wikipedia
|Cooper's Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, left; |
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus, right
Regardless of the location or setting, these hawks are successful in catching their prey about a third of the time. If a hawk survives long enough to reach adulthood, it is very skilled and has the potential to live up to 20 years in the wild.
What Steps Can I Take to Deter Hawks?
First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors at bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the hawk flys away. So rather than get upset, enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
Place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds. If there is none available, consider planting a few varieties this spring.
Lastly, acknowledge that a few birds and squirrels will be caught by hawks at your feeders. This is part of the cycle. Raptors play an important role in controlling the populations. Also keep in mind; songbirds are difficult for hawks to catch. Few are caught by birds of prey.
Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that settle in at feeders do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. Just take a few simple steps to protect them and enjoy a season of bird feeding.