OK Im at the last of what I can take with the hawks taking birds from the bird feeder and im especially rattled at all the distress screaming the animals do when the hawk is getting something. I am fully aware that this is just how things are, but Im trying to enjoy some bird watching and let the hawks be. but not have my stomach in knots and be at the point of tears when I come in. Im going to take the bird feeders down for a week or so, even tho I get so much pleasure from them, this year especially I have had so many birds.
What Im wondering is, if I bring in the feeders, is the summer a good time for them to find food. What months does nature supply the most food and what months do they need help, hawks or not. Im in FL.
It used to be said, if you feed the birds, do it in the winter months when food is otherwise scarce. There are so many weed seeds around that really, other than for our enjoyment, we do not "need" to feed the birds. Even in the winter, food is there, just not as easily found. It's just like our gardening, we have abundance in the warm months.
I do find it interesting you have a hawk (guessing Cooper's or possibly Sharp-shinned. They are known to eat mostly small birds) coming in the summer to your feeders. Maybe it's your habitat. We get Cooper's and Northern Shrikes interested in feeder birds in the winter. All the other raptors in our area have no interest. Well, possibly the Great Horned Owl, but we don't know what his prey is. I am kind of glad not to know especially during nesting season.
If you have no neighbors who also feed the birds, as that would still attract the hawk, go ahead and take the feeders down, but I'd probably wait for at least two weeks to put them back up to make sure the hawk as moved on.
You might consider feeder placement and type of feeding system. I have several feeders hanging under the canopy of small evergreen trees right in front of my kitchen window. They are both caged feeders (one suet, one seed) for my small birds. It is very rare that a hawk will enter this area, but it has happened twice. My other feeders are located near trees and brushy cover. I have also moved away from large hopper feeders, to tube feeeders with little to no tray underneath. This has discouraged flocks of birds (big hawk attractor) and has reduced sitting time on the feeder, which would make a bird more vulnerable. Finally, my open feeders (not under canopy) are on shephard's hooks, which would make it harder for a hawk to swoop in and snatch up prey. I noticed last winter that hawks seemed to be showing up around the same time each morning (9:30-10:00), and was advised that they like to soar on thermals and begin hunting when the morning heat begins. So I became more vigilant and hung out more in the yard at that time. My hawk problems have diminished greatly. Hope this helps. Pictures attached are:
1. This Cooper's hawk was a problem last winter.
2. Caged seed feeder under the privot canopy.
3. Trayless seed feeder, on shephard's hook with imm. RH woodpecker in back.
4. Caged suet feeder under privot canopy w/ juvie bluebirds.
Thanks so much for your suggestions and experiences. Im finding it harder to take it down than I thought, Ive got 7 blue jays out rirght now Im watching, some are juvi's of course, but how fun to watch. I can look this up, but if I might ask, about how big of a bird can a hawk eat. Are the big blue jays easy for them. I did see a jay right up in ones face the other day. Im going to get a caged feeder for the little birds for sure. Ive been really surprised at the closed in areas the hawks will go into, I thought they kinda hunted in the open.
I've recently been reading a lot about birds. I learned that the Cooper's have been known to prey on the Sharp-shinned which is not that much smaller than itself. If available, they will eat the smaller birds. The standard sized birds they go for are pigeons, starlings and sadly, jays. We did notice our little band of Jays decreased over the winter, but the hunting of them was never done here that we were aware of.
From what we've witnessed here is Cooper's will find an open perch and watch awhile. Sometimes it will swoop in at the feeder birds, but most often it will crash right into the trees where the birds are hiding. Mostly these are the smaller songbirds that will all run and hide in the conifers. I've seen Woodpeckers stone still on a power pole, out in the open and is never preyed on.
Do you live in town, gardenglory? We may see differing behaviours because we are out in the country, surrounded by large scale crops with a couple other homesteads in sight and a few trees here and there.
Hawks don't see very well at dawn and dusk and most Owls don't see well till it's completely dark. That period in between is when most bunnies are out nibbling for just that reason. It's also the favorite time of day for many varieties of birds, Cardinals being one of them. Many birds are out looking for food very early before it actually gets light (haven't you ever awoken to singing birds when you thought it was still dark?). They're also out until nearly dark trying to fill their bellies before they settle down for the night.
I know it can be inconvenient, but you might try putting most of your feeders out just a little before dusk then taking them down in the morning once it gets light. But don't put them out too early in the evening. Many Hawks are looking for food in the evening while it's still bright.
Once your birds get used to this pattern, good chance they'll flock to the feeders as soon as you hang them outside.
Oh, and as far as Blue Jays...they're some of the loudest birds I hear when it's barely dawn. I think that schedule would work just fine for them.
What I have seen taken by hawks are two squirrels, a Grackle (a guess) and an unsuccsessful attempt on a Cardinal. I have had a Cooper's and Red Sholdered hawk hunting my yard beginning last fall. As irritating as I have found mockingbirds at times, they do provide some protection and warning against hawks, as do Blue Jays. I know that birds of prey must eat, but it doesn't have to happen at my feeders. I have been vigilant about hawks. If I see one or hear the alarm chatter in the yard, I go out and investigate. I think the presence of a person in the yard certainly screws up hunting, and it seems that these two hawks do not hang around my yard much anymore. This upcoming winter, when flocks of Grackles and RW Blackbirds move in, I will have more problems. Chilly is right, I have seen the Cooper's crash into tree canopies, but not with success.
Nutsaboutnature, That is interesting info. For the most part we've only seen Cardinals and American Tree Sparrows feeding at dusk. But we sure have heard birds singing waay too early. It used to bother me before I cared about the birds. Now for the most part, I try and ID the bird if I recognize it.
Its a dark and rainy day here, so Ive left out the feeders hoping the lack of light will deter things.
Ive been known to make a fool out of myself trying to get a hawk out of a tree. Once they have food in sight, they must just know I cant do a darn thing. That doesnt stop me from screaming, throwing things up in the tree and trying to blast them down with the hose. They could care less. I do think yesterday I might have got out just in time for a blue jay to make an escape tho.
They are hungry and desperate for food. Is it possible these hawks are nesting, thus have a greater need for food right now regardless of any obstacle? I do not know what breeding seasons are in other parts of the country. The south may go on longer than here. The raptors here probably are all fledged.
If this is so stressful for you- take down the feeders. It is summer and unless Florida is in a drought there should be plenty of natural food sources. Put them back out after a time, or try the above suggestions from those above who feed birds in spite of the hawks. If I ever have this problem, I will try them myself.
In terms of eating times, a lot of it is what they get used to. Yes, there are some birds that naturally feed very late, but we have all sorts of birds that eat at dusk or just before and early morning they're all hungry. It's especially crazy right now as even the Hummers are out there till we can barely see them.
Don't get me wrong, there is still hunting that goes on during the twilight hours. The Great Horned Owl hunts during those hours...but if the problem is mostly Hawks right now, removing the feeders during the brightest part of the day might "train" the hawks to go elsewhere while also "teaching" the birds when breakfast and dinner is.
I usually go out and clap my hands together to chase the Hawks. Sometimes it works right away, but others, they take their time about it probably just getting tired of listening to the "racket".
I can't remember when they nest. They only have one brood per year, but it takes nearly a month for the eggs to hatch and the young are in the nest for 1-1/2 months. Do you see more than one at a time? Are they actually hanging out all the time or is your yard just another area they prowl?
We had a hawk trying to nest in our yard where we have all types of feeders and birdbaths etc to attract songbirds plus a koi pond. My husband used a small cassette recorder to tape a hawk distress call from an internet site and stuck it in a window with the volume cranked up every time he saw the hawk in the yard. After frantic swooping around a few times the hawk took the hint and moved on to another area to nest. I felt bad denying them a nesting spot but hate to lure other birds to a brutal death. MW
Boy, I heard a big crow racket just yesterday, I went out and all the sudden a hawk flew by being chased by a good 6 crows. They were carrying on like nobodys business. I had never seen that before and was totally mezmerized watching this. Im pretty sure the hawk had something in its mouth, glad I did see that.
Very typical for crows to mob hawks and owls. That is how I was able to locate an owl and get photos ...by watching the crows! We had a Cooper come in after one of our Pileated Woodpeckers. he missed but it was very close!
This is just part of feeding birds but if it cause you too much stress then I would say take the feeders down. I notice we have the hawks in waves. May see one almost every day and then will go for stretches without seeing one at all. I find them fascinating...but raptors are favorite group of birds.
Now Im even more distressed. Ive had a pair of pileated woodpeckers for years and I just love them. I never thought about the hawk getting them, but that WOULD upset me.
I notice the wave 'thing' too. I figured it had something to do with breeding or fledging.
We had a redtailed hawk try to get to the littler birds at our feeder, but the location of the feeder did him in. Our feeder is under a large pussy willow at the west side of the house. the smaller birds use the tree as a perch and the hawk can not get into the tree. We have seen the hawk try, but fail several times, the tree is too dense for him to fly into and he left after a couple trys and never came back
I am new to this site to please forgive me "butting in", I had a Sharp Shinned Hawk chasing a bird from my feeder, & it was the first time I've seen this! I was thrilled as I had only heard about these hawks. It flew right over my head chasing the bird, which I totally understand having feeders out. There is a pair of Cooper's Hawks nearby, along with a few other birds of prey. There are fields around our area but I never thought there would be enough food for them, as I saw a Cooper's Hawk swoop down on something in the field one day!