Hawks in East Lansing: Signs of a Healthy Ecosystem

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Sunday, October 28, 2012, 4:18 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Imagine my surprise when, one day this week, I was watching the songbirds at my birdbath when this fellow swooped down to get himself some lunch! I'm not sure what, if anything, he caught, but he stuck around for the yard for a while, hunting by alternately staying still and silent and then suddenly bursting into activity to try for a kill. Based on a careful review of Peterson's bird books, as well as consultation with a colleague who birds in a serious way, we suspect this is a juvenile cooper's hawk, or a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk.

The mature trees of the Oakwood neighborhood -- combined with our neighborhood's propensity to leave things a bit bushy and wild -- combine to make Oakwood a rich habitat for native species. Since moving into our home on Sunset Lane fourteen years ago, we have also specifically added features to attract birds. We maintain two suet feeders, a sunflower feeder, and two thistle feeders, and maintain three birdbaths plus two ground watering stations. (One of the birdbaths is heated for the winter, which guarantees interesting birding when liquid water is few and far between for the creatures.) We have also hung many houses for birds, created piles of small brush in a few areas, and included many flowering plants that feed hummingbirds and finches. Rather than clearing out our dead zinnias and coneflowers, we leave them all winter so that the finches and chickadees have something natural to eat.

You know you've done a good job when a hawk decides that your yard is its equivalent of Old Country Buffet. To see such a creature so close is nothing short of thrilling! We are happy to live in a "tree city" where this kind of bird-friendly gardening is made much easier. (Another picture below.)

UPDATE: Van Atta's Greenhouse is offering 25% off birdhouses and feeders from October 31 through November 12.

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