Hawks Around the House

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By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

I’m sitting upstairs at my desk, working, overlooking the front yard and woods beyond. The dead cherry tree out there, approximately 60-feet tall, is a favorite roost for crows and hawks. I stop writing to watch a hawk’s quirky head movement as it scans our yard. It’s intimidating. They always look so ticked-off. The raptor suddenly launches into a tuck and dives. Whoa!
I knock over my chair standing up to look down on what it got. The hawk misses and flies off.

I don’t have a dog or cat, but I wonder what might have happened if I had either one out in the yard when a hawk is on the hunt. Even if the bird of prey couldn’t carry them off, I don’t want it even to make an attempt. I’ve touched those talons, and they are literally razor-sharp.

So, what’s the danger, if any?

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, summer is an excellent time to see hawks because they are on the move. Young hawks are busy tagging along with mom and dad, learning how to hunt. Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks are common in urban settings. The one in my dead cherry tree was a red-tail. The young hawks of these two species will sometimes stop at trees, fences, deck railings, and other outdoor fixtures to rest while gaining strength to fly longer distances.

“While it may be alarming to see these hawks in your yard, they mean you and your pets no harm,” says Holly Vaughn, Public Outreach Manager for MDNR.

Cooper’s hawks aren’t interested in cats or dogs. They primarily eat other birds, mice, and sometimes squirrels. Red-tail hawks are almost twice the size of cooper’s and generally eat small game such as squirrels and rabbits. MDNR states, “Pets larger than 4 pounds or so are too large for these hawks to prey upon, so you likely don’t need to worry too much about them.”

But if you keep chickens, the MDNR cautions you to make sure they are protected on all sides. Because if there’s a hawk in your hen house, your only recourse is prevention.

“All hawks are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so they cannot be captured or harmed,” says Vaughn.

Young hawks will move on by the end of summer to find hunting grounds of their own. Until then, keep your gerbils inside and enjoy the view.

Photo courtesy of MDNR

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