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 23, 2010

Will Hawks Eat My Dog?

Can anyone tell me what kind of hawk this is? I live in a suburban neighborhood with this hawk and a couple of it's family members. I and another neighbor worry about our small dogs. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!

It looks like a Cooper's Hawk. I wrote an earlier blog about the bird at http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2009/02/bird-of-week-cooperss-hawk.html.

I'm not sure where you live, but the most common neighborhood hawks in mid-Michigan are the Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks. They are usually woodland hunters, and with their habitat shrinking more sitings have been reported in the suburbs. It is also the beginning of migration. February and March are good times to see a lot of birds stopping over in our yards on the way to their final nesting grounds.

Cooper's hawks are predators primarily of birds and small mammals. Small means under a pound, so you don't have to worry about your dog unless it fits in a teacup.

When hunting, Cooper's hawks usually perch during the day and watch for prey. They wait until their prey is unaware of their presence, then quickly swoop down and seize it. Mourning Doves, starlings, chipmunks, and small squirrels are common prey for Cooper's hawks. Their short, rounded wings make them very maneuverable flyers in dense, forests and even follow prey up evergreens. These hawks also pursue prey on the ground, half running and half flying.

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 attracted to bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the Hawk flies away. So enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.
  • If you feed birds, place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds.
  • Keep in mind hawks in the neighborhood play an important role in controlling bird and rodent populations and usually ignore cats, dogs, and people.
  • Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that visit only do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory.


Anonymous said...

I am so glad I ended up here after my neighbor showed concern for whether her still-young toy dog would be eaten by the Cooper's Hawk in our neighborhood. I was confident in my answer that it would leave the dog alone, but am glad to have some reassurance. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have a 3 pound Yorkie. I live in LA. Two days ago a Cooper's Hawk (I think) swooped down to get my dog and I was standing right beside her! I grabbed her up and hawk came at me! I flailed my arms and yelled and he flew to tree nearby. In a few minutes I was startled to see him on my back patio furniture. He sat there 3 hours finally leaving just before dark.