Sunday, June 23, 2013

Red Car Canyon: Cooper's Hawk Takes On Great Horned Owl

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 22, 2013.  Got a call from a neighbor that a hawk was harassing a Great Horned Owl in Red Car Canyon; grabbed my camera & ran down the street.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)  

The neighbor had seen owls in the twilight & at night in the canyon, but not at 11 AM. The hawk had been screeching at & chasing the owl for about 5 minutes before I got there.   
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 22, 2013.  We surmised by the hawk's striped tail, small head & distinctive call, & the fact that it didn't hesitate to fly into the dense trees and bamboo, that it was a Cooper's Hawk.  The hawk was flapping its wings and making short threatening flights toward the owl, when they weren't in a stand-off, staring at each other.  In fact, I'd never seen a Cooper's Hawk so puffed up, making itself look like a much larger bird.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 22, 2013.  The owl mostly seemed annoyed by the hawk (note the small head & gray back - Cooper's Hawk).  The owl eventually flew into some very dense trees about 100' south in the canyon (near the sewer outlet).   The hawk continued its chase, into the dense trees.  We lost site of it, but continued to hear the hawk calling.  

The Canyon Neighbor sees Cooper's Hawks flying in & out of the trees in the canyon fairly often, including this dense thicket.  He said mockingbirds are usually harassing the Cooper's Hawks.  Cooper's Hawks are a forest dwelling hawk that prey on other birds.  They often stalk prey at neighbors' bird baths. 

Unlike Russell Bates, who lives a bit further up from the canyon, Canyon Neighbor has never seen birds take on owls.  It must be a territorial issue.  Clearly Red Car Canyon is daytime territory for the Cooper's Hawk.  It's likely she has a nest nearby.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 22, 2013.  Why are these photos so bad?  Shooting with a point & shoot into the dense trees in dappled light is asking a lot.  If you look really closely, you can see both birds in this wide shot.  You can also appreciate the flying skills of the hawk to be on the attack in such a dangerously branched tree.  Where the owl took refuge next, was so dark you could not even see into the blackness.  The hawk followed & continued its assault, though mostly from the edge of the daylight.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has lots of info:
Great Horned Owls
Cooper's Hawks

Send us your Red Car Neighborhood wildlife encounter photos with a description of when, where & what the animals were doing at the time: