Birds

Creature Feature: Cooper’s Hawk by Michael Graves

So… you’re walking down the street with your dog or stroller when a dark blur streaks by and a dozen doves explode out of a tree, with the jays who witnessed the event screaming JAY JAY JAY! What just happened? Chances are good that a Cooper’s Hawk is to blame and that he or she may now be enjoying a meal.

“Coops” are becoming increasingly at home within the Woodland Heights, with these woodland hawks moving into neighborhoods to offset impacts of habitat loss. Coops lurk from hidden perches in trees, swooping out to snatch birds, squirrels, rats, bats, reptiles and insects. All but the tiniest pets are safe, with Cooper’s Hawks weighing in at less than a pound and unlikely to tackle anything bigger than themselves.

Though we may feel bad for those who are eaten, the balance of nature requires these ongoing interactions of prey and predator, as is beautifully illustrated in the new movie The Biggest Little Farm. And the risks work both ways, with the Coops’ method of hunting resulting in injuries that give them an average lifespan of just one year – not good for a species that doesn’t breed until its second year.

As a result, most of the Coops you’ll see are young birds, which have a brown back and wings, and brown streaks running down the white breast and belly. Adults have a slate gray back and wings, with orangey barring across the breast and belly. Coops of all ages have a very long tail with broad brown and gray bands. Photos taken in Woodland Heights and White Oak Park display the progression from nestling, to juvenile, to adult.

Want to learn more about the birds of the ‘hood? Check out the Bayou City Birding resources of the White Oak Bayou Association at WhiteOakBayou.org/resources-and-zines and take part in the monthly bird survey at Woodland Park.

- Wendy Wright

Nominate a Bird of Houston by July 15, 2019 by Michael Graves

Recommended by City Counselor Karla Cisneros at the July WHCA general meeting. What's your vote for The Bird of Houston? https://houstonaudubon.org/birding/birdofhouston.html

Official symbols reflect the cultural heritage & natural treasures of areas. Countries and states recognize emblems like flags, birds, flowers and seals; and every city has its own unique spaces and things residents cherish. At Houston Audubon we treasure birds, people, and natural landscapes, and we are proud to be a part of the Houston community.

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Join us in celebrating Houston by helping us select a bird species that represents our bayou city. We take pride in our hometown and we want to hear from our fellow Houstonians which bird inspires or connotes emotion or thought when you think of Houston.

Is it the Great Blue Heron foraging along the bayou or the Great-tailed Grackle scoping out the local HEB parking lot? We want to hear from you!

Nomination period ends July 15, after which we will narrow the submissions to the top 8 birds based on votes. The winner will be determined via brackets beginning on July 22. This will include head-to-head voting in 7 different rounds (with 3 days of voting for each round) until we have the winner. All of this will be happening right here, so be sure to bookmark this page! We'll announce the winning bird at the beginning of our 50th anniversary Bird Week festivities (September 21 - 28, 2019).