Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mating Season for Urban Raptors

Old Main of the University of Arizona
It's spring break. The campus of the University of Arizona is eerily quiet for this week. But every morning when I pass the big old pines framing 'Old Main' I am startled by a crescendo of loud, nasal bird calls.
Today I watched as a small male Cooper's Hawk carried his prey first to the trees at the fountain, listening to his mates impatient  'gna-gna-gna-gna-gna' call, stepping from one foot to the other and waving his bent neck indecisively from left to right.

Then he finally flew across my head to join his mate on a big branch right in front of the windows of the Social Sciences building.  Impressive how much larger the female is! By the time I finally remembered that I was packing (a camera) today, the prey had already changed owners and the little male was about to go hunting again. The female devoured every bite of the gift and had no objections to my filming.

Again, the flickr quality is much better, so please click here to see her feast.

This courtship feeding obviously plays a role in the bonding of the pair. It also allows the female to judge the hunting capabilities of her mate. This will soon be very important when she is tied to the nest for laying and incubating the eggs and also later when she stays with the young nestlings to feed them the prey that the male has to deliver.  Only when the nestlings are quite grown does the female start hunting again - and then she goes for much larger prey than the male.

Now I'm hoping to observe these two nest on campus. They will have to deal with much more traffic when the students are back, but I remember an Osprey pair on the U of Florida campus in Gainesville, that every year raised their young successfully. Of course, their nest was guarded by the  campus pond gator.


  1. Fun looking through more of your posts. I lived there in the middle 70's and forgot about a lot of the beauty.

  2. As always, you have a fun and informative post. How wonderful to have these Cooper's Hawks readily available for observation.

  3. What a cool opportunity. Great video!