Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Red-shouldered Hawk

On Tuesday, the Red-shouldered Hawk reappeared at our Dundas, Minnesota, banding site. The raptor had been absent since 19 November. Of course, it is a guess that this individual is the same as the previous bird. If it is the same, then its bloody breast feathers are nicely cleaned. Another interesting difference is that the small birds at the bird feeders, and especially the Blue Jays, repeatedly mobbed the hawk. The jays sometimes struck the hawk’s back.
In November the small birds paid little attention to the hawk. We assumed that the hawk’s preference for small mammals made it little threat. Perhaps the hawk’s diet has shifted during this long, cold winter. Several hypotheses exist for why small birds mob predators.  Mobbing alerts nearby birds of the nearby predator. The hawk probably has trouble keying in on a single mobber, thus there may be safety in numbers. Mobbing may also drive a dangerous predator away. The Red-shouldered Hawk was clearly bothered by the jays. Note, in the center photo, the hawk peering skyward, watching for the jays. Finally the hawk flew off southward.

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