Sunday, September 12, 2010
Hawk harasses the killdeer
When I first arrived at Field 7 at Lake Murray after riding my bike there on this foggy morning, I found three killdeer in the field, all adults. When I went around to the other side, I thought I found a fourth one. I think Mary was in that field, too. Then, a Cooper's hawk swooped down startling the killdeer and some doves feeding nearby and sitting on the fence. It did not get all the way over to where the killdeer were, but I saw three of them take off to the other fields, screaming their heads off.
I looked and looked and couldn't find the fourth. At first, I assumed he just flattened himself on the ground, but I think he took off somewhere else or buried himself in the dirt. Then, one killdeer, decided to fly around back to Field 7 making calls, including the "where are you" chirps, obviously looking for the missing killdeer. I think it might be Mary looking for her missing friend. She flew right towards where the hawk was perched. The hawk swooped down, scaring Mary away. It didn't appear to actually try to attack Mary or grab out for her in any way, but mostly was trying to get her out of the area. It's possible that the hawk was a juvenile and not sure how to catch killdeer or other faster flying birds and was testing them to see how she could go about doing so.
I went to the other fields where people were getting ready to play softball. There, I found Tiny, Secret and a third older juvenile (who looks a lot like George, but not quite) there. Secret is beginning to look a lot like dad with beautiful markings. In the next field, I think the "baby" killdeer was there along with the Tiny-look-a-like who called to him once in a while. The "baby" still has his chick-like peep instead of a call. I think Shy may have been there, too, but not sure. In the field across the parking lot, I think Beautiful Dad and the M6 mom was over there watching for the hawk.
As I was getting ready to leave, the hawk flew right over the juvenile killdeer who were feeding with several grackles, doves and starlings. The four adults that had originally flown back from Field 7, plus one, flew off into the air, quickly along with about 50 other birds in the area. But, I didn't see anyone get caught. Killdeer were being scattered all about due to people coming onto the fields. Some where getting into fights as Tiny and his two friends moved into the other field. The hawk flew off toward Field 7 and disappeared, hopefully to hunt somewhere else. I will be checking on Tiny and the other killdeer later today or perhaps tomorrow morning.
This is the kind of thing killdeers have to put up with throughout their lives, so there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is hope that Tiny is healthy and strong and is able to escape the hawk by strength or by being sharp of mind and attention. Tiny seemed unfazed at the hawk and stayed on the ground the whole time.
I think something changed with the feeding schedule of the squirrels and I think that many of the easy to catch squirrels have all been caught. So, the hawk might be testing the other birds to possibly tap into that food supply and find out who would be easiest to catch. Most of the birds on those fields are feeding there for insects and worms, so they're not dependent on a feeding schedule set by people. Killdeer are very high strung and are usually the first to get flushed, if they get flushed at all, but they scatter and can fly very fast and maneuver well, so they have a pretty good chance at not getting caught (unless they do something stupid like Mary did). Hopefully, I won't find a pile of killdeer feathers one day when I go to check on them.
There are some noticeably "missing" birds in the area since the hawks started hanging around. For one, the M4 male has been missing since the end of the breeding season, but I thought I saw him a couple of weeks ago, so I suspect that he may just be hanging out somewhere else like George is right now. Also, the little duckling, once one of three in that area, went missing a few weeks ago and hasn't been seen. But, he was about 10 days to 2 weeks old when he went missing and just about every wild duckling I've seen changes feeding areas at that age. Plus there has been construction going on nearby, so he may just be somewhere where I can find him or visit. He may be back when construction is over.