Posted in Animal Behavior, Hawks

Bath Time

Sunny and 70 degrees. On March 4.

Everyone Into The Pool

My editorial assistant growled. Willa was settled in my lap, supervising the nature preserve, as I waded through emails. I glanced up—most of her commentary is directed at cats—to see an imposing hawk perched on the water basin fountain. Willa ignores small birds. Large ones are another matter.

In an earlier post, I wrote about hawks bathing in the fountain. Finally, I could film the action. Conditions weren’t ideal; I had a dog in my lap, needed to shoot through a screen door into bright sunlight and I was using an older iPad as my camera. But I was only 20 feet away from the bird. If I moved, the hawk would fly. So I needed to work with what I had.hawk, bath time

Snapping a few stills, I waited for the bird to hop down to the pool. The wait wasn’t long. The hawk quickly flapped down to the water’s edge. It stood, taking stock, for several minutes as if undecided about the next move:


First the hawk tentatively dipped its head in the water:

Then, finding the water to its liking, the hawk dove in, splashed around, ducking underwater:

ID Please

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

We all like to know something about our visitors, especially when they hang out to take a bath. But I’m uncertain what kind of hawk this bathing beauty was. Or its gender. Hawks can be devilishly difficult to identify.

David Sibley, perhaps America’s most respected expert in bird ID, says as much in his field guides.


Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

I’ve narrowed the possibilities to immature adults of three species; Cooper’s hawk, red-tail hawk and northern goshawk. Full-plumage adults of all three species have been in my yard and this hawk was large and robust. Further, I could rule out what it wasn’t based on size and geography.

Here are thumbnails of the three hawks. You can see the problem…

If anyone has a positive ID, let us know!

Red-Tail Hawk
Red-Tail Hawk

Mystery hawk popped out of the pool, shook itself and flew off. My editorial assistant dozed. The chickadee breakfast club swarmed back to the feeders once the threat was gone. I finished my now-tepid coffee and read more emails. Show over.

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