About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Most common winter hawks in Michigan

What hawks are in mid-Michigan in the winter? I was watching my feeder 2 days ago and a hawk swooped down and tried to snag a house finch. The finch took off and there was a wild chase and I don't think the hawk got him. I did not get a good look at the hawk as it happened very quickly.

The most common neighborhood winter hawks in Michigan are the Sharp-shinned Hawks and the Cooper's Hawks. They are usually woodland hunters, and with their habitat shrinking more people have been reported seeing them at well-stocked feeding stations.

Less common in the neighborhoods are the Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Northern Goshawks.

Life is very difficult for raptors. An estimated 80% of raptors don't make it through the first year. Studies have shown that the success rates for hawks capturing their prey are less than 20%. There is some evidence that hawks catch a higher percentage of weak and diseased birds simply because they are easier to catch. As a result, this helps to keep the remaining population healthier.

Some steps to take if you have hawks in your yard:
  • 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.
  • 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. 
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Dennis said...

Thanks! It was a Cooper hawk. I don't mind hawks at my feeders. They are beautiful birds, exciting to watch and all part of the cycle of life.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeding station in my yard with lots of activitie squirrels, chipmunks, birds , in the spring, summer I have a few ducks that stop by. I love sitting and watching them. There all so busy. Well this morning I looked out and seen a sharp skinned hawk sitting in wait above the feeding area. Wow was it a beautiful bird. Ive never seen one that close before. I first feared for my pets then read that they are there looking for birds, etc. Not totally happy anout that but it is the cycle of life in the wild. I hope his or her visit is short, but while it is around I will enjoy its beauty, and pray for my wild critters.

Kt said...

I came home to a Cooper hawk in my yard. He got my silkie chicken and has been back every day waiting for me to open the coop door. Now I can only let them out when I can sit outside with them. Building a run now, will miss watching them free range, hoping the hawk family will move on in a couple weeks.