The Saga of Rufous Hawk - 2014 Season

The Saga of Rufous Hawk - 2014 Season

Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:44 pm

Welcome back, everyone!! The 2014 season for the Valley Ranch, Texas, Cooper's hawks has begun!

If you have not already met Rufous and Henrietta, they are a pair of Cooper's hawks that have nested in R4's yard for six years! You can read all about them at Now, on to the beginning of the 2014 season:

February 20, 2014

This morning Jay & I spotted Rufous in the cypress tree. He seemed to be scoping thing out, and maybe looking for Henrietta, who was nowhere to be found. Guess he's too early? A small orange tabby cat meandered through the yard and passed directly underneath Rufous. He eyed the cat with curiosity but did not make a move. Welcome home, Rufous!!

March 3, 2014

As I headed out the front door this morning, I heard one of the hawks calling "kek kek kek kek" nearby. I circled back along the road and - sure enough - there was a Cooper's hawk in the dead willow tree across the street! I nodded to myself with satisfaction and headed back to my car. As I got in the car, I saw the hawk fly down and back across the street, maybe toward old nest tree.

March 4, 2014

Today was a warmer, clear day, and Rufous has gone into action! I watched him preening away in the cypress tree. Then he flew to the ground for a stick and up, up, and away he flew to the site of the 2013 nest! I would love it if the hawks nest in the same location as last year!

March 5, 2014

It was late afternoon and beginning to get dark when Jay called me to the window. There, on a low limb of the cypress tree, were both hawks! Rufous and Henrietta are together again to start another family! Welcome Home, Rufous and Henrietta !!!

March 20, 2014

As the days pass, we see Rufous almost every day, and sometimes catch a glimpse of Henrietta inspecting her nest. Rufous is doing a superb job of spring nestoration, and it's clear they plan to use the same nest as last year! Hooray!!

Today, I watched Rufous as he flew from the cypress tree to the ground, select a stick, and fly up to the nest for placement, then back to the tree, etc. Once, while he was hopping about on the ground, looking for just the right size stick, a crow swooped down and buzzed him. Rufous took off after the crow like a fighter pilot! The birds lit in a tree across the canal and sized each other up, jumping around in the tree. Then back across the canal they flew, the crow in pursuit of Rufous.

Crow and Cooper's hawk are about the same size, and I suspect neither would benefit from a conflict, but clearly they don't like each other.

March 29, 2014

This morning as our neighbor Sylvia came walking her dog along the canal, I called to her and pointed out one of the hawks perched on a tree limb above her. Sylvia has followed the progress of the hawks from year to year, and I knew she would be interested.

I went up to the loft and set up my camera, and sure enough the hawk flew to the cypress tree near my window. It was Rufous, and he had brought his breakfast with him! I snapped a couple of photos and was just about to try for a video when Sylvia returned. Her little dog spied Rufous, and ran toward him barking. Rufous was having none of that, and took his meal elsewhere.

April 5, 2014

This morning I got up very early, before first light, with one purpose in mind. I slipped downstairs in the dark and opened the back door, just in time to hear it -- the dawn chorus of the Cooper's hawks. They were indeed singing a duet, and their calls seemed a little quieter than I have heard them before. Perhaps they were farther away, for I could not see them. I slipped on my shoes and was just about to edge out onto the patio when two runners came by, just talking away. Then the noise of a trash pickup truck came clanging down the street, and that was it for the day. No doubt the magic moment was over for the hawks as well as for me.

April 12, 2014

It is getting very close to egg-laying time. The nest looks nicely refurbished, and I have seen a hawk there several times.

Early this morning, I was gathering clothes for the laundry when I heard Jay downstairs, calling, "The hawks are in the tree! They're making all kinds of noise and they're mating!" I dropped the laundry and headed straight for my camera in the loft.

The hawks had finished mating and were still close together in the cypress tree. I got a couple of photos and then this video.

While I was filming the video, I noticed something amazing! One of the hawks had the streaked breast and yellow eyes of a young hawk! It was not Henrietta!! I was dumb-founded! To be sure, I followed the young hawk as she moved about in the tree, much more active than Henrietta ever was. She turned around, and I got a good look at her back, still marked with a juvenile's white patches.

It will do no good to speculate what happened to Henrietta. She was six years old, and that's pretty old for a Cooper's hawk. I do not believe she returned this year at all, and the earlier photo was the only sighting of the hawk pair together. I have looked at it closely and, since it is a back view, it's impossible to see who it is. I am glad that Rufous has found a new mate, and I hope they will have success with a family. After all, procreation is the ultimate goal for a raptor of any species.

The new female flew, and Rufous remained in the tree for awhile. Here is a short video I took of him. He oblidged me by "lightening the load" just before he flew.

April 13, 2014

It would be an injustice to proceed with my reports about the Cooper's hawks without pausing for a tribute to Henrietta.

Henrietta was about one year old when she first came with Rufous to raise her first brood in Valley Ranch. We know because she still had her juvenile plumage.

No doubt a hawk's greatest successes are measured in terms of its procreation. Here is the record of Henrietta's fledglings:

Year 2009 --- 1 Fledge
Year 2010 --- 3 Fledges
Year 2011 --- 2 Fledges
Year 2012 --- Nest predated by racoon
Year 2013 --- 4 Fledges

We will never know what happened to Henrietta, but we are told that the oldest recorded age of a Cooper's hawk is 12 years, and the maximum age for a breeding female is 9 years. So perhaps she did live a full life, and now Rufous is the survivor. He was at least two years old when he first came to Valley Ranch, and so this year he is at least seven years old.

Rest in Peace, Henrietta Hawk...

April 19, 2014

We have decided to call the new female Roxie. Of course, we look for things about Roxie that are different from Henrietta, and we do notice a few things. Roxie appears to be at least as large as Henrietta, and maybe larger. She is more active and industrious about tasks like nest-building. Perhaps in her youth she is more motivated?

There's no doubt she is beautiful, as you can see:

The streaks of her plumage and her yellow eyes reveal her to be young, probably still in her first year. She also still has white patches on her back. We are very curious to see if we can observe her molt into her adult plumage during the breeding season. This remains to be seen.

Roxie has accepted Rufous' nest as her own. The pair continue nestorations, and the nest is getting large and substantial enough for a clutch of eggs.

May 11, 2014

It is hard to tell what is happening at the nest, but clearly something is going on. Most of the time, no one appears to be at home, but occasionally we can see Roxie's tell-tale-tail sticking out of the nest. In the following photo, you can see the tail sticking out to the left side of the nest.

Every morning, Rufous can be seen in the cypress tree from a vantage point that looks right into the nest. He is on guard.

Rufous has raucous arguments with the crows that frequent our neighborhood. And occasionally bluejays will torment him -- probably with good cause.

The hawks sometimes eat their meals in the cypress tree outside our window. It is a mystery to me why our lawn is not littered with feathers! I did find two Cooper's hawk feathers, however -- a tail feather and a wing feather. I hope this is a sign that the hawks are molting.

May 24, 2014

At last there is a change in the nest. Roxie is sitting up higher in the nest, and we can actually see her. We are almost certain there are eggs in the nest, and it's possible they are beginning to hatch. In this photo, you can see Roxie in the middle of the nest and her tail extends all the way out of the nest to the right.

Here, Roxie is perched on the edge of the nest.

In the meantime, Rufous continues his vigil. Things have quietened down around the nest, however. When Rufous wants Roxie's attention, he announces himself with a single "kek." These birds have a secret that they aren't telling anyone!

June 1, 2014

Almost certainly there are hatchlings in the nest. Mama Roxie does not want to show us, however. She is clearly disapproving of the humans with the black box that keep watching her nest!

Almost every photo I take is exactly alike. There is Roxie giving me the "eye." This is one protective Mama hawk!

June 6, 2014

Finally, we can see a tiny hawk in the nest! He appears to be looking up at Roxie, maybe wanting to be fed. Roxie's brood is lagging behind Henrietta's old schedule by a few days -- perhaps as much as ten days.

In this photo, the buffy down of one or more hatchlings can be seen in front of Roxie. How many are there??

Notice the white patchy fluff in the nest? I believe we're seeing Roxie's molted feathers. This spring, we have watched the nest cams of other accipiters, notably goshawks and Eurasian sparrowhawks. Both of these mother hawks molted their breast feathers while incubating their eggs -- an effective use of downtime! (no pun intended)

June 7, 2014

This morning we saw no movement in the nest. It looked like everyone was sleeping in. But around noon, things started perking up. Click to see video:

And here's another video. How many do you see?

June 10, 2014

There are at least two chicks in the nest. Tonight I took a photo from the east side and from the north side of the nest and saw two different chicks.

Now watch the movement of the two chicks in the video:

June 14, 2014

Two days ago, Roxie began guarding the chicks from a branch about three to four feet above the nest. It is the same vantage point that Henrietta chose last year. Roxie can watch every movement her chicks make, and swoop down on an intruder at a moment's notice.

The sun was behind her, so this photo is not the best. I will try to catch her again posed like this. She still has not molted her juvenile plumage.

I turned the camera to the nest, just in time to see two chicks jump up, but before I could focus on them, Roxie had somehow sent them the alert to lay low, and I saw no more.

June 16, 2014

I can see movement in the nest and an occasional glimpse of a downy outline, but no chicks peering over the edge of the nest yet. I believe the nest bowl is quite deep, and the chicks are safely contained at the bottom of the nest -- for now.

Today, I saw a climber -- a chick struggling to reach the nest rim. He must be so curious to see the world outside the nest!

You can see the climber's foot, and it is huge! The foot looks almost as large as the chick itself, and long sharp talons are ready to grasp anything within reach. It won't take the young hawk long to grow fast enough to catch up with his feet!

June 17, 2014

The little hawk has finally succeeded in climbing up to the nest rim, and here he is!! There's no stopping him now!

I was amused to observe that the young hawk does not look quite so helpless as a hatchling might. As a matter of fact, he has the look of a little "tough guy" about him.

Something about the little hawk made me think of my Dad and the stories told about his youth. When Dad was only a child, he worked as a "news butch" on a passenger train, selling newspapers and sandwiches to the travelers. He kept a jar of mayonnaise on the train, and when they reached the first stop, he would run out to a market and buy fresh bread and bananas. His banana sandwiches were big sellers! As he grew older, Dad became a telegraph boy, and rode a bicycle everywhere! He eventually became an endurance athlete and held a record for the longest non-stop bicycle ride.

So, thank you, little hawk, for bringing me such pleasant memories of my father's youth. I shall call you Butch, in my Dad's honor!

June 20, 2014

Now everyone wants to climb up to the edge of the nest! Today, I took more than a dozen photos of Butch and Sundance moving all along the nest rim and peering down at me.

Roxie does not like me standing below the nest with the black thing pointed up at her nest. No, she does not care for that at all! Sometimes she will fly from her lookout above the nest and perch in a tree across the street. Roxie, that doesn't distract me at all! I know what you're up to!

As I carefully inspected the photos, one of them caught my interest! In the photo below, you can see Butch and Sundance very clearly. Now look to the left, and notice the sun shining through the tawny down of a third chick! There are no eyes or beak in the photo, but the chick is there, hiding behind the leaves! Three in the nest! Are there more?

June 23, 2014

It has rained most of the weekend, and I have wondered whether Roxie attempted to shelter her chicks as she did when they were younger. I was able to take a few photos this morning and can see that the chicks have developed quite a few feathers, even on the tops of their heads. They may have enough feathers to keep themselves dry.

Regardless of whether she is needed in the nest or not, while I was snapping away, Roxie dived into the nest and snuggled down, wings flapping and long tail sticking out behind.

Roxie's intrusion created quite a stir in the nest, and all three chicks clamored on top of her to peer out.

What do we call the third chick, you may ask? Well, when I asked Jay if he would like to name Butch & Sundance's sibling, he replied, "Sure! Ruthie!" Ruthie??? Hmm... Okay, so it's Butch, Sundance and Ruthie. Maybe if a fourth chick makes an appearance, we can call him Billy the Kid.

June 24, 2014

The young hawks are developing their feathers quite nicely now. Here is Sundance, perched on the rim of the nest, showing off his/her big-guy juvie plumage. Notice the down still clinging to the top of his/her head, looking very much like dandelion seeds.

Tiny dark feathers covering the ears develop early in Cooper's hawks, and by this stage of their development, begin to poke out, making them look like little clowns or zombies.

June 25, 2014

Today Butch decided to go exploring. These photos are taken at two different angles of the nest. In the first photo, he is perched on a stout stick above the edge of the nest, peering down at me intently. I like this photo because it captures the true color of a young Cooper's hawk's eyes. They are blue, and will gradually turn yellow, until after the first year, when they begin turning red, deepening in red with the passing years.

In the second photo, he has moved to the nest rim and seems to be thinking about his next move. Notice the brown feathers appearing high on his breast and on his head.

Butch's flight feathers, at the wings and tail, have developed nicely too. Watch this video, as he hops outside the nest, teeter-totters on a support limb, then quickly heads back to the safety of the nest. Notice Sundance watching from the center of the nest.

June 26, 2014

Perhaps Roxie is getting used to the human with the black box. This morning, I took photos of her as she preened herself and looked all about. She seemed to be bored with my appearance and studiously avoided giving me even a glance.

Roxie does look like one fierce mama hawk. If I were a predator, I would think twice about tangling with her. I try to make my visits brief so I will not disturb her routine too much. If she is feeding her chicks, I pick another time to watch. (After all, a big bobbing hawk bottom is all you can see at feeding time anyway.)

The hawk chicks were mostly napping this morning, although I did get a glimpse of Ruthie peeking out of the nest.

June 27, 2014

This morning two of the young hawks were intently watching something above them in the tree.

Then a third little hawk joined them. You can see him/her behind the support limb on the right.

Looking up to see what the little hawks were watching, I could see another hawk in the tree, on Roxie's perch. But it wasn't Roxie! It was Butch! Awaaay up in the tree, at least four feet above the nest, there was Butch, clinging to a good-sized limb.

But wait a minute!! Didn't we just count three little hawks in the nest? And there is Butch in the tree? If my math is right, that adds up to four young hawks!! Let's take another look in the nest.

Sure enough, peeking out from behind the support limb is a fourth hawk chick. Welcome, Billy the Kid! Just like Snowbird said, you are a good hider!

Now let's take another look at Sundance, still clinging to the safety of a small branch that extends just above the nest. Sundance will be next, following closely behind big brother.

Even as I snapped the photos of Sundance, bold Butch fluttered to another branch in the tree. I hope you can see him in this photo. I can only make out a few feathers.

June 29, 2014

Jay and I were preparing our morning mugs of coffee when I heard something I have longed to hear for years: the sound of a female Cooper's hawk. Roxie was calling very near the open patio door with a vocalization that the experts say is almost always that of the female. They say the female Cooper's hawk has as many as 42 different vocalizations!

What we heard this morning sounded like "WHAaaa" repeated at intervals of several seconds. Now, hold your nose and say "WHAaaa" and you'll sound just like a female Cooper's hawk!

I walked outside to see if I could spot her, and there she was in the cypress tree, busily preparing breakfast for her rapidly growing brood.

The experts say that the female calls out with the "WHAaaa" vocal during or after retrieval of prey brought by the male.

Roxie still has her juvenile plumage and yellow eyes. I wonder when she will change?

June 30, 2014

The oppression of Texas summer has settled upon Valley Ranch. Afternoon cicadas hum and vibrate, making the very air seem to throb with the waves of heat.

Today the little hawks were still, and I could not see any of them out on the tree limbs. One hawklet (or "cooplet", as Hbrga calls them), lounged in the nest, with wings spread to catch any breeze that happened by.

July 1, 2014

The cooplets are out in nest tree. Eager to explore, they hop and flutter from limb to limb, like tree rats.

They seem to be studying everything around them, figuring out which limb to grasp and what will be their next adventure.

July 3, 2014

Last night I watched as the little hawks shared a meal. Little hawk bottoms rimmed the nest and tails bobbed up and down as they took their turn at their snack. I could hear them chirping faintly.

During the night there was a summer storm, with lightning, thunder, and rain, but no high winds. The skies are still overcast this morning, and I walked out to see what the little hawks were doing. Nobody was peering out of the nest. Nobody was hopping the limbs of nest tree.

Then I heard the familiar "eee-eeww" of a little begging hawk. He was in the still-wet bough of a cypress tree near nest tree.

Then I heard a second little hawk, in the cypress tree near our house. As I was trying to snap a photo of the first hawk, the second one flew, little wings flapping, back to nest tree. He landed at a vantage point just above the nest, then moved to Roxie's perch, to await delivery of his breakfast.

I am still amazed at how rapidly the flight feathers of these young birds have developed. Their growth is not complete, but that doesn't stop these fledglings.

July 5, 2014

The fledglings seem to like hanging out together. At least two of them are together a lot, although I can't be sure it's the same two every time!

Looks like fledgling Cooper's hawks know all about perching on one foot, even at this young age! I also catch them spread forward on a limb, with one wing askew. They try to behave like grown-up hawks, but they're not ready to go for it full time!

July 6, 2014

The fledglings favor the cypress trees near nest tree (which is a live oak). The cypress boughs afford them natural coverage, and the shaggy bark of the tree is easy to grasp. To get an idea of what their talons are like, enlarge the fourth photo below and prepare to be impressed!

Several of the young hawks flew, squealing, to nest tree, where they continued to whistle and beg. I walked over and took this photo, thinking it was one of the juvies. After enlarging it, however, I noticed the red eye and very long tail. It is Roxie! She is finally beginning to change, with the color of her eyes deepening to orange, and the feathers of her breast having a less distinct vertical striping.

Later in the afternoon, grandson Wyatt came by for a visit. As he came into the front door, he announced, "Nana, there are three hawks in the tree!" We all went outside for a look. Indeed there were three hawks, and I had no camera! As soon as we walked closer, a fourth hawk flew from higher on the tree where we could not see him. I followed him to a nearby cypress to confirm that he was a fledgling. Yes! Once again we have confirmed a brood of four!

We also found a mass of feathers in the yard, the remains of what probably was a grackle or starling. We did not see such evidence while the young were still in the nest, but now things are different. Providing food for four hungry fledglings is no doubt a challenge, and the parents do whatever is expedient to capture and prepare prey for their young.

Once our visitors were gone, I took my camera and headed back out, still wanting good photos before the fledglings figured out they should not allow us to get too close. This little hawk rewarded me!

July 9, 2014

OH... be still, my beating heart! They are going to pose for a group photo! No... wait! Get IN THERE, Billy the Kid! Flap flap flutter flutter. To the top of the tree goes Billy the Kid! Ah well, here is a photo of three of the four. I believe that is Ruthie on the left; she is a big girl. Then the smaller males, Sundance and Butch on the right.

July 10, 2014

This morning I took the camera out to see what new mischief the hawks could be getting into. Everything was quiet in the cypress trees. Then I heard whistles in nest tree. Then more and more soft whistles. I walked around to nest tree, and there they were -- having breakfast! Roxie's long tail was bobbing up and down, as she busily fed her family. No doubt the young hawks are capable of feeding themselves by now, but Mama still likes to do it.

Two or three of the little hawks could feed at one time, and the other one or two had to wait his/her turn in the branches above the nest. From time to time, one would fly down and displace a sibling at the nest (which has now become a dinner plate). Roxie allowed her youngsters to figure out the feeding order by themselves.

I made this video while aiming my heavy camera straight up with no tripod, so it's very shaky. But it still may interest you, so if you play it, turn up the volume so you can hear the soft whistles of the feeding hawklets.

July 11, 2014

Last night, we parked our car in front of the house. As we drove up, I could see a hawk on our chimney cover. It was Rufous, and he was not prepping supper for his brood; he was eating his own supper! Today, I spotted one of the little ones on the roof. Perhaps he thinks he can find a bird up there like his Dad did.

Little hawks seem to be everywhere now! They whistle and beg all the time, and their cries seem to fill the air. It is my belief that the parents have begun to cut back on the rations so their youngsters will begin to hunt on their own.

July 12, 2014

As if to confirm my suspicions that the young hawks are beginning to learn how to hunt, Jay and I watched from our loft window this morning as two of the little ones tried to ambush a squirrel. One hawk approached from the ground on this side of the cypress tree; another flew at the squirrel from the other side. The squirrel simply moved around the tree trunk, out of harm's way. After many attempts to catch the squirrel, the hawks gave up. One of them moved over to a shady spot in the grass and sulked, while three squirrels taunted him mercilessly, chasing each other right in front of him.

July 13, 2014

Around noon today, we saw one of the young hawks fly from the ground to a lower limb of the cypress tree. A second hawk was perched there. They both watched one of their siblings, who was perched on a limb just above them, eating a snack! A fourth hawk moved from limb to limb, begging piteously for a piece of the meal, to no avail. The youngsters remained as they were just long enough for me to finally get a photo of all four together!

A few minutes later, they all flew to another cypress tree, and I was able to snap another photo of them.

Again I noticed that one of the four young hawks is quite a bit larger than the others. It is likely that the larger youngster is female, and the three smaller ones are males.

Seeing the fledgling hawks together like this makes me emotional. Tears come to my eyes, as I recall Bent's account of William Brewster's 1925 report ( Thankfully, times have changed, but even so, I can expect that only one or two or these little hawks will survive to become adults.

July 14, 2014

There are three cypress trees clumped together between our home and nest tree. Chances are, if we want to know where the fledgling hawks are, we have only to step outside and listen. Pretty soon we will hear the whistling call of one or more of them - eee-eww. Then it is easy to locate them, most likely somewhere in the gnarly branches of one of the cypress trees.

This morning I spotted one of the small males, who seemed oblivious to my intrusion. Another small hawk was perched very near him, but hidden by a large limb of the tree. Higher up in the tree was the larger female. I could hear the fourth hawk calling from some distance away.

Would you believe that, a little later in the day, this proud-looking young hawk was squealing for something to eat and jostling his way to the nest for a food drop? Yes, I learned this evening that the parents are indeed still dropping food into the nest. First come, first served!

July 15, 2014

This morning I looked up from my orange juice to see one of the juvie hawks in the cypress right outside my window. He was eating his breakfast too! Here is a video:

I walked outside to get a better look, and took several photos. He was in no mood to leave his meal!

Wait a minute! Enlarge that middle photo! What in the world is he eating???

After much discussion with Raptor Central experts and Texas Birds peeps, there is no consensus on the species of the prey. It's a good-size bird with long legs and big feet and pretty big talons. The majority opinion was -- grackel, although the legs do not look as dark as grackel legs should. Hmmm.

All evening, I kept walking out to try and get a count. I will just feel better knowing all four fledglings are still safe and sound.

July 16, 2014

This morning I continued to walk about under the cypress trees and nest tree to see what the fledglings were up to... and to get a count. Suddenly two of the young hawks flew across the canal and up onto our rooftop, one chasing the other. Then, in one of the cypress trees I located two more, moving about from limb to limb. That makes 1-2-3-4!! All four fledglings are accounted for. Now I can breathe easier!

July 19, 2014

The fledglings have become more evasive, although they still give away their locations by whistling and begging for food. As I walk about to see where they are, I will suddenly see one peering down at me with a startled expression; then s/he will quickly hop to another branch just out of sight.

I have not noticed the fledglings feeding at the nest for several days, although one or more of them sometimes hangs out there watching for a food drop. There is no way to tell whether all are receiving enough food, but they all behave as though they are hungry. All four young hawks appear to be healthy and active. They are now old enough that their flight feathers should be full length, and they may be hunting on their own.

July 22, 2014

This morning, all was quiet in the cypress trees and nest tree. I walked beyond nest tree and spotted the young hawks in a dead willow tree. One was eating breakfast, and two others were restlessly watching and occasionally begging for a handout. But to no avail. Sharing is not in the vocabulary of juvenile Cooper's hawks. I did not see the fourth hawk; he seems to always be late to the table.

July 24, 2014

The life of a juvenile hawk has come down to one persistent question: "Where is the next meal coming from?" To be sure, they are developing their hunting skills, but bird-catching is not easy! To broaden their chances, they keep tabs on their siblings; if one of the others finds a meal, maybe there's enough for all. Or maybe s/he will drop it. Or maybe I can steal it! Then there's always good old Mom and Dad. Every now and then, one of them will bring a meal. Who will get it? Maybe the most aggressive one; or maybe the one who is in just the right place at the right time.

With all those variables in play, the scene shapes up something like this: All will be still and quiet for awhile. Then someone makes a move, and suddenly the trees explode with little hawks shooting out like rockets, pursuing the lucky one. When it becomes obvious that s/he has things under control and settles down to eat the meal, the other hawks sit and watch restlessly, occasionally begging.

This is what happened tonight, when one of the young hawks caught his own small bird. He flew to a low limb of nest tree, where I was able to take photos as the feathers flew. I later retrieved one of the feathers, black and only about 3-1/2" long. The prey was probably a young grackle or blackbird.

Another of the young hawks, one of the small males, perched nearby and watched. He grasped the tree bark much like a nuthatch would, with his long third toes balancing him as he faced down on the tree trunk.

Only a short time later, there was a flurry of activity in nest tree, and I saw at least two of the juvie hawks in the nest. I have no clue what they were doing there, and they did not stay long.

July 27, 2014

Today the oldest of the young hawks is 56 days old (to the best of my calculations). It is a significant milestone, because, according to the experts, the juvenile hawk's feathers are hard-penned at this age. The blood that once flowed through the shaft of each feather, allowing it to grow, has now dried up, leaving mature feathers. The important flight feathers are now "hard-penned" to the bone, and the juvenile hawks can hunt and maneuver through the trees with less risk to their fragile "blood" feathers.

As if to put their feathers to the test, today two of the juvenile hawks decided to try squirrel hunting. I watched as one approached a squirrel on the ground, with wings and tail spread in "attack mode." The squirrel turned to confront him, and he stopped dead-still. He surely must have been thinking, "What the heck do I do now??" Both squirrel and hawk turned and fled.

A second hawk hopped about in the cypress tree only a couple of feet above a squirrel. This time, the squirrel casually munched on a snack, while keeping one eye on the hawk in case he needed to move out of the way.

July 30, 2014

This morning, all four of the juvie hawks were in the trees along the west side of our canal. With a pair of binoculars, I watched two of them corner a squirrel on the ground. But they were not cooperating; they were competing! While hawk #1 was chasing hawk #2 away, the squirrel escaped into a nearby tree. The hawks flew about, seeming to quarrel with each other. Then their siblings joined in the action. It must be very difficult for one of them to catch anything. As soon as he draws a bead on potential prey, his siblings rush in and blow his cover!

August 11, 2014

During the first days of August, the juvie hawks seemed to be in a frenzy, zooming through the trees and chasing anything that moved. As a neighbor once said, they are "wreaking havoc up and down the canal."

Last Friday, our 9- and 11-year-old grandchildren Patrick and Jennifer came to visit. They burst through the front door, excited and flushed, with the news that they had chased the hawks south along the canal. They both seemed to enjoy looking at the album of 2014 baby hawk photos.

Now all is still once more. As though a switch has been turned, quiet has descended upon the neighborhood. An occasional angry bluejay call is the only indication that one or two of the young hawks may still be nearby. But it's likely that they have reached a point in their maturity that their instincts lead them to leave the group, to seek a place where prey is plentiful and each one can hunt alone. This is the life of a passage hawk.

So farewell to you, Butch and Sundance and Ruthie and Billy the Kid! Rufous and Roxie have done a fine job, raising four healthy young not only to fledge but also to passage. Soar high and hunt well!

Once again, Patti has worked her magic and put together an album of the photos into video form. Thank you, Patti! I love it!

Until next year . . .

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  • delete
    Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:20 pm

    Oh, my it will be hard to top this year or this video.....great work you guys!!!

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    Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:41 pm

    A safe journey wished for the Rufous & Roxie family. Long Live The Coopers Hawk Family

    The video is wonderful.

    The mornings are very quiet here now, the wild birds have been flocking & are getting ready to move south. I sure am going to miss the morning bird chorus.

  • delete
    Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:38 pm

    Patti's video of the 2014 season is now available. Link at the end of the blog. Thank you, Patti!

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    Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:03 pm

    What a beautiful family, the fabulous 4 are looking great.

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    Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:23 pm

    I love your pictures and your story, r4. There's always something exciting happening in the cypress tree.

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    Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:31 pm

    I LOVE hearing you narrate this story. Your words along with your great pictures make this nest really come to life for all of us.

  • delete
    Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:43 pm

    More updates have been added. I'm tickled pink that the youngsters have shown themselves to me more this year.

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    Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:16 pm

    Now that was a great day. Great pictures. I think they like you.

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    Mon Jul 07, 2014 12:56 pm

    More updates to the story have been posted

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    Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:09 pm

    Another milestone!!! Congratulations

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    Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:18 pm

    The cooplets have fledged! New updates are posted here, and the web site has also been updated. Please check it out if you have time, and let me know if you find typos or broken links. (Thanks, Hiker, for being first with the feedback.) Short cut to web site is . Then click on "Year 2014 Adventures." Thanks, everybody, for your support!

  • delete
    Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:32 pm

    Butch is the brave dare devil. The balancing act in the video was hair raising first tipping forward, getting his balance, then tipping backward, then getting his balance. He reminds me of my human grand boys, when they were first learning to walk.

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    Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:56 pm

    R4 you have such a great way with words. I thoroughly enjoy your updates of this nest and the little ones will be gone before we know it. I can't believe how they have become such big hawks already. Thanks for sharing your world outside your windows

  • delete
    Thu Jun 26, 2014 4:26 pm

    A few more updates for the hawk story, plus the video of Butch exploring outside the nest. They are growing up too fast!

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    Tue Jun 24, 2014 5:28 pm

    Thank You r4 for sharing this family with us. I'm loving your each discovery, and the way you present them.

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    Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:58 am

    I'm enjoying your Rufous Hawk Saga so much... but I'm sure you must wake up every morning with great anticipation to experience this first-hand. The babies are adorable looking little raptors.

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    Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:54 am

    Ruth was my mothers name. Her nickname was Sis. Ruthie it is.

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    Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:40 pm

    LOL Snowbird -- that was my thinking too. However, when I asked Jaybird if he'd like to name the third one, he said "Yes, I want to call her Ruthie!" Ruthie?? I sure hope there's a fourth one: Butch, Sundance, Billy the Kid, and Ruthie.

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    Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:07 pm

    Butch, Sundance, & Billy the Kid?


    Billy The Kid always was good at hiding out.

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    Sun Jun 22, 2014 6:50 pm

    This is wonderful R4. I am so thrilled for you!

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