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Territorial birds even squawk at seeing themselves

This Cooper’s hawk is exhibiting territorial behavior at its reflection, thinking it is another hawk that is intruding into its nesting area.
This Cooper’s hawk is exhibiting territorial behavior at its reflection, thinking it is another hawk that is intruding into its nesting area. Chris LaPine

I have written about birds pecking or fluttering at windows and car mirrors before. It is not uncommon for some local bird species to fight their own likeness in reflective surfaces. Usually the species involved are Eastern bluebirds, Northern mockingbirds, American robins, Eastern towhees, Northern cardinals and tufted titmice. Occasionally I get a report of other species like great crested flycatchers doing the same, but I was totally surprised to receive the photo featured with today’s column.

The bird is an adult Cooper’s hawk, likely a male. Like the smaller birds I mentioned earlier, this hawk is exhibiting territorial behavior at its reflection, thinking it is another hawk that is intruding into its nesting area.

Apparently this bird would spend a good part of the day sitting on the window ledge giving a loud cackling call typical of an agitated Cooper’s hawk. The posture of the bird also suggests aggressive intentions, with the flared tail and drooped wings. This is the first time I have seen this behavior in this species. I have seen photos of Cooper’s hawks peering into windows when their curiosity has been aroused by the presence of a caged pet bird, but a hunting hawk would not be putting up such a racket as this bird was.

This photo was taken off Club Road near the Charlotte Country Club. The observer reported a large bird sitting at a neighbor’s window and making lots of noise. I surmised it might be a recently fledged red-shouldered hawk begging for food from its parents. Wrong. I think there is a nest somewhere close by, hence the defensive behavior, but again, this is an adult bird.

Cooper’s adults have the barred russet breast, banded tail, steely blue back and dark cap. Juveniles have heavy vertical streaking on the breast and are mottled brown. They are fierce hunters, and I think the constant cackling of a Cooper’s hawk would terrify the birds and small mammals within earshot.

Thanks to all who sent me photos of unusual nesting sites, which I requested a few weeks ago. I am compiling the best ones to publish soon in a blog, piedmontbirding.blogspot.com. Keep the photos of birds and their nests coming.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com.

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