Hawk vs. Flicker

Hawk vs. Flicker by Gene Walz

Cooper's Hawk, adult male

Cooper’s Hawk, adult male © Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO

It took me far too long to finish rebuilding my deck. But it was unexpectedly warm and sunny on Sunday. So, I lollygagged while replacing the joists and the floorboards. It was too nice to work hard.

In the middle of the afternoon a couple of Northern Flickers looped into my backyard and began searching for ants and grubs. They provided a pleasant distraction. Until….

In a flash an immature Cooper’s Hawk swooped in and struck one of them. It tore the poor bird apart in short order, scattering feathers in a small circle and feasting on its flesh. I didn’t intrude (it would have been too late anyways), content to watch what Tennyson called “Nature, red in tooth and claw” – or in this case “red in beak and talon.”

Flickers are easy targets. They’re big and colorful, they’re rather slow, and they sit out in the middle of open fields as if they have a big target on their backs. I’ve seen the remnants of quite a few of them over the years in a nearby park, where they’ve nested virtually side by side with Cooper’s Hawks. Symbiosis in action.

Northern Flicker, adult male Red-shafted

Northern Flicker, adult male Red-shafted © Glenn Bartley/VIREO

Flickers are such easy prey that juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks will practice taking them down even though the flickers are too big to catch and eat. The sharpies will just dive bomb them, spook them a bit, and probably fly off chuckling to themselves.

It got me thinking about bird migration. I’ve heard that Northern Saw-whet Owls will move along with the Hermit Thrushes as they migrate south, following the food. I wonder if Coops follow flickers. I hope not.

Even though I can see over a hundred flickers a day at this time of year, it seems that these are one of the species that aren’t as plentiful as they once were. And Cooper’s Hawks are more abundant. I don’t like those odds.

Gene Walz

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4 Responses to “Hawk vs. Flicker”

  1. Julie says:

    Love my flickers, but i dont like any of the hawks that visit my yard. Ive never seen a takedown, other than a redtail stealing a robin. It was a sad day. Yes, nature happens, just wish it didnt happen right in my backyard <3

  2. Lisa says:

    Where in Canada do. You live? I’m in Toronto and I’ve never seen either of those birds before. Lots of red tailed hawks and kestrels though.

  3. Gene Walz says:

    I live in Winnipeg. Lots of Red-tails and kestrels here too, especially at this time of year when they’re passing thru in migration. They’re “out in the open” birds — on hydro poles and wires or visible over fields. Coops stick to the woods; search for them in Toronto’s parks.

  4. Josh Haas says:

    Providing feed for the songbirds is the buffet that ends up bringing up the Hawks, my favorite! Absolutely enjoy it when they come in. Nature at it’s best… Circle of life!!!