Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

I may not see my winter robin again. When I drove home today, there was a sharp-shinned hawk, a small, fierce raptor, sitting on the hillside near the house, surrounded by an explosion of feathers and some blood on the snow. It was done eating, and flew off as we stopped to look. The feathers could easily have been a robin's, and the robin wouldn't have been able to fly very well to escape the hawk. We'll see if it comes back tomorrow.

I have only seen these hawks recently - probably partly because they weren't here and partly because I didn't see them. All the hawks suffered in the DDT-caused population drop in the 1940s-1970s and I didn't grow up seeing them; I remember being more excited about seeing a hawk than about eagles. Sharp-shinned hawks are theoretically in this part of Montana year-round, but I think they winter here; in the summer we are more likely to see kestrels. And they are small enough that it is easy to mistake them for a songbird if you aren't looking carefully. I am enjoying seeing them; they are a nice counterpoint to the larger rough-legged hawks that spend the winters sitting on the power poles along roads and fields.

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