Hawk vs. Flicker by Gene Walz
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.
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.