Feeding the birds and wildlife in your yard can sometimes bring unexpected visitors, including hawks. Here are the two most common hawks to visit backyards, some tips to tell them apart, and how to deter them.
OUR COMMON BACKYARD HAWKS
• Blue Jay-sized, about 11" from head to tail
• Tip of the tail is squarish, showing corners. Narrow white band at end.
• Head appears small compared with the body and makes the sharpie look short-necked
• Broad chest and narrow hips give it a high center of gravity
• Thin, stick-like legs make them look longish
• Short, rounded wings in flight
• Crow-sized, about 16½" from head to tail
• Tip of the tail is rounded with longer tail feathers in the middle. Broad white band at end.
• Head appears large compared with the body and the body looks tall
• Thick body with a low center of gravity
• Thick legs compared to sharpie makes them look short
• In flight, has a cross-like shape
NOTE: If you think you've seen a falcon in your backyard, chances are you've seen either a Sharp-shinned Hawk or Cooper's Hawk. Cornell Lab of Ornithology states, "It is actually quite rare to host a falcon like a Merlin, Peregrine...at your birdfeeders."
Check out the Cornell Lab's website for additional identification tips and photos.
• Make sure your feeders and baths are located where there is ample natural protection. Nearby evergreen shrubs, bushes, trees or a brush pile will provide birds with an easy escape when they are threatened by a hawk or other predator.
• When hawks start hunting in your backyard, take your feeders down for a few days. The hawk should go elsewhere for food and will hopefully find a new location for hunting and not return. Your songbirds will leave while the feeders are down, but will return once you replace your feeders.
Adapted from material provided by WBU, Inc., using information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology PFW 2009-10 Winter Bird Highlights publication. All images by Nancy Castillo