Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | June 24, 2016

Hawks in the Neighborhood

Red-tailed-Hawk_MV203[New poem below — “Cooper’s Hawk”]

In the bird world, red-tailed hawks rule the Midwest.  You can see them dotted against the sky every time you take a drive – on utility poles, high tension wires, and limbs of dead trees.  Big and stocky, red-tails perch for long spells, then suddenly swoop down to snatch up the unsuspecting mouse, rabbit, toad, or baby bird.  Any time a red-tail is near, all the other birds in the vicinity chirp noisy alerts and send brave warriors to try and drive it away.



hawk_coopers_adult_winter_california_3aLately, however, there’s a new hawk in town.  Until recently, all I knew about the Cooper’s Hawk was that it was the name of a trendy restaurant chain where you can get a flight of good wine during happy hour.  Then an actual one moved into my neighborhood.  This is one crafty hawk!  Sleeker and smaller than the red-tail, the Cooper’s hawk hangs out in trees of any size, often right in our back yards.  It will dart across lawns at window level into a hedge or fir tree to grab a bird off a branch.  The other day, I saw a Cooper fly past my windshield in pursuit of a robin just as I pulled out of my subdivision.  I’ll never know if that poor robin went on to find dinner or become one.



owlRed-tails and Coopers seem to co-exist nicely in a given area so long as there’s an abundance of critters – and what suburban area lacks them?  Add the owls and coyotes prowling at night, and it’s a wonder there’s a chipmunk left around here.  (But of course there is – right under my front porch.)


Despite hawks’ brutal, predatory nature, it’s hard not to find them awesome and beautiful.



Cooper’s Hawk


It darted with sureness

into the evergreen.  Glad

coopinitI wasn’t near enough to hear

the death screech when talons

punctured nape, I shuddered

to see the limp blackbird

soon draped on a wide branch

of my neighbor’s oak tree.

The victor wasted no time

tearing in.  Feathers flew

as the sharp beak ripped,

bit by bit, at the flesh of itsCOHA_adMale3

cousin, its steely head

like the knobbed handle

of a cane, its striped tail, ruler-

straight, pointing down.

Precise, focused, functional:

eyes, claws, talons, tail.

Gnawing hunger.  An absence

of shame.



Cooper’s hawk photos by Bill Schmoker



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