Hawk Attack--Question

A hawk has moved into the area and regularly flies by the bird feeders. Today, the birds scattered from the feeders a few minutes before this hawk came swooping down. Instead of going for the feeders, however, it flew after a person standing on the patio (maybe 10 feet or more from the feeders) and when that person leaped away from it, it flew further into the covered patio and among the furniture, to go after a second person standing there. No one was harassing the hawk. No one was between the hawk and prey. Any ideas why the hawk would attack? We’re kind of concerned because there are children who routinely play on the patio, one of whom is only 3. We’ve had hawks come through before–none have ever gone after humans. I took a pic of the hawk (from a distance, so it’s not identifiable). It’s large. Seems like risky behavior on the part of the hawk–it could be easily injured going after humans, I would think. Anyway, any information would be appreciated.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68683732

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That sounds scary! I’m no expert, but in cases like this, I think the hawk is probably fearful that you might be trying to take its prey. It seems strange that it went into the patio, but animals can be unpredictable sometimes, as there is still a lot to learn. Someone else can probably provide you with more detailed information.

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Thank you. It was a little scary–it’s a powerful bird. :)

Could it be nesting nearby?

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I don’t know–that’s a good question. It always flies off in the same general direction, but it’s definitely not in one of the closest trees. It leaves the backyard (thankfully).

Very interesting indeed! It sounds like territorial agression, may need to read when NA hawks start mating season, many birds do it in winter, so it could be it.

From the observation and behavior, it looks like you have a red shouldered hawk. They are the most territorial of hawks. They are not a threat to anybody, big or small. Many times they just dive bomb to keep intruders away from their territory. It is possible that that area is its favorite hunting spot. It’s also possible this is a Cooper’s hawk. If so, you still have no need to be worried. Perhaps remove the bird feeders for some time to protect the birds. It will catch the same amount of birds anyway, but it would be sustainable if it is from different places.

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Thank you! Perhaps we should take down the feeders? I hate to do that midwinter, but if it’s claiming territory, maybe it would lose interest that way or at least be less aggressive?

i’d never heard of a hawk attack, and there are plenty of them where i am living among people. that said, it looks like hawks attacks are not unheard of, especially during nesting season: https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-bad-hawks-20180327-story.html. i would guess an aggressive hawk only needs to see someone climb up its pole or tree once – intentionally like an egg poacher or unintentionally like a utility line technician – for it to learn that all humans are a threat to be dealt with swiftly snd proactively. you may want to call local authorities to make them aware, but do not attempt to do anything about the bird yourself, other than practicing increased awareness when you go outside.

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Interesting–I suppose the hawk may have had a bad interaction with a human. Neither person realized there was a hawk there until it swooped at them, though they noticed the songbirds leaving. My parents have lived in the same place for over 50 years–we’ve never had a hawk do that. A young one once crashed into a window carrying prey–it was dazed but OK. A few have been high up in trees, and we had a Cooper’s hawk dive after a squirrel (we think) and hit a trailer hitch (it died). But none of those hawks ever bothered people.

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Yes, I would recommend taking down the feeders for a week or so. Then you can put it back up. If the hawk is still there, take it down for a longer period.

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Thank you. We’ll do that. Best for all concerned I think.

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It is also possible that it wasn’t a negative interaction, perhaps animal control had to take a chick away from the nest to save it from a disease, but the hawk interpreted it as thievery.

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Good point. I really appreciate the help. We were mystified, but this conversation has really helped. I knew iNat was the place to ask. :)

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I don’t disagree with most of what has been said here, but some hawks definitely will strike intruders around nest sites. When I worked in the arctic there were rough-legged hawks ( Buteo lagopus aka rough-legged buzzards) nesting in a number of locations where we worked. We tried to stay clear of them but would wear sticks or reeds that projected above our heads so that birds attacking from behind would hit that, not our heads. And they would hit that. Red-shouldered hawks are also Buteos but a fair bit smaller than rough-legged. I think that red-shouldered feed mostly on small mammals and would have thought hunting birds would be an opportunistic behaviour but hunger can be a strong motivator to try new things.

I’ve had sharpshins set up on my feeders a few times in different places. Never had any issues with territoriality. The feeder birds know the drill and do all the things that small birds do when big birds are around. The hawks don’t have anything like a 100% success rate. I suspect a Coopers might do that too, although they’re more stand-offish about people, I think. I know of one gos setting up on a feeder in Guelph (late 80s) and taking blue-jays.I saw the bird but never saw it take a jay. I’ve heard of merlins hanging around too.

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Thank you. It’s apparently a Cooper’s. I have a camera which could take a better shot from a greater distance. If I see it at a distance, I may try to get a better photo that way. I’m hoping this dive bombing is a one-time event, but if not, I’ll pull the feeders. What surprised me most was its decision to go after the person standing much further in on the patio. It has been around about two weeks or more and wasn’t a problem, but apparently something changed.

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I can’t really help much, but there are areas in Winnipeg where hawks seem to attack people, usually during the summer breeding season. People complain, then it stops, and they complain again the next summer ( Hawks terrorize Transcona neighbourhood - Winnipeg Free Press). Oddly, there is a nest in the park I go to every day with a Coopers Hawk nest. I’ve walked past it many times, and have never been bothered by them. I’ve gotten some great pictures, though. It is kind of surprising that they would be doing this in winter.

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Just an update on the hawk in case anyone is interested. The hawk dive-bombed a relative and then went after a neighbor today, so I spent time making some phone calls. The experts I spoke to think the hawk was in captivity for a while and imprinted on a human and then was released. But it has not learned the skills it needs to survive. The hawk is attacking because it’s starving. One expert is trying to make plans to rescue and rehab the hawk, which he believes to be a red-shouldered hawk. We are going to try to keep the hawk alive long enough for someone to get here and trap it. There are no local raptor experts. I am extremely grateful to those trying to help–they are incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated. I am very impressed.

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Let us know - when the hawk is safely in rehab?

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