I noticed a flock of pigeons all in a kerfuffle, flying high into the trees of the Native Plant Area, and switching positions every few seconds. That’s quite unlike them. They don’t have great feet for perching in trees. They usually forage on the ground and if not disturbed can keep up a steady peck-and-pace rhythm for quite a while. Curious, I trained my lens on what I thought was a tardy pigeon nearby in the shadows of a low branch of a Torrey Pine and quickly squeezed off a few shots. It wasn’t till I got it home that I realized what the kerfuffle was all about. This wasn’t a tardy pigeon, it was a hungry hawk. This bird had the idea of a pigeon for lunch.
They were too smart for him. They took to the trees because all the branches and greenery made it much harder for him to catch one. His preference would have been to dive on one that was sitting still on the ground. Not happening! Actually, if this is the same Cooper’s Hawk that I saw in January, he couldn’t catch them on the ground, either. See “Empty Talons,” January 6 2021. Pigeons are among the smartest of birds, and they’ve been living with raptors for millions of years and know a trick or two. That’s not to diss this hawk. Cooper’s Hawks are fearsome and effective hunters. Once they’ve grown up.
A tip of the hat to ace photographer and raptor expert John Davis, who identified this bird as a juvenile Cooper’s and not a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They are very similar. John Davis takes breathtakingly beautiful photos of raptors in flight; see his Instagram @jozoqo_photo.