Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Corralitas Drive: Where To Look For Urban Hawks

Photo: Corralitas Neighbor, May 1, 2017.  After weekend brush clearance, a neighbor's cats turned the yard into their own killing fields, sharing three gophers with their owner in the past two mornings. 

Hawks, like the cats, are more frequently seen hanging around lots where brush clearance is being or was recently done.  Look for Red Tailed Hawks sitting on tree branches, tops of telephone poles or even the railing of your deck, intently watching something on the nearby lot lot. (Yes, we have very urban hawks.) The hawks' backs are usually to the sun, so the prey is temporarily blinded when the hawk swoops in for the kill. 

Corralitas neighbors have long witnessed this hunting behavior.  We've even seen hawks drop in for a kill, while workers were still weed whacking the lot.  A few of us have actually been used by the hawks as we walked the Corralitas Public Staircase.  The hawks were using humans to screen for them, often only changing course slightly around the human's head then dropping back in to the human's shadow.  Both Red Tails and a few Cooper's Hawks have used this technique hunting near the Corralitas Public Staircase.  They're also careful to time their descent when the person is either distracted or has their back to the hawk.  This is a brilliant adaptation of hunting technique in our urban hillside neighborhood.

Its usually around this time of year when hawks' eggs are hatching.  They to feed rapidly growing chicks (in an area where almost every vacant lot has been built) the successful hawks adapted.