Sunday, January 8, 2017

Brazen Cooper's Hawk at Harahan Walmart

Yesterday afternoon I was at the Walmart in Harahan, pulling out of parking space in the crowded lot.  The local flock of panhandling Boat-tailed Grackles took flight in apparent alarm, so  I stopped to scan for a raptor.  Sure enough, an adult Cooper's came bombing through.  However, it was not flying at normal height, but weaving and maneuvering among the cars and shoppers.  It then dove into one of the small ornamental trees near the store front, scattering several House Sparrows from its foliage, and quickly reappeared, heading back along a row of cars.  It flew at eye level ten feet in front of two oblivious shoppers, and swept up to the top of a rather short light pole.  

I pulled up that aisle, trying to get close, when it dove back to near ground level and zipped between two parked cars.  It seemed to be using these to conceal itself as it hunted, but came up empty, and flew across Jefferson Highway to park on a wire in front of the Chisesi Ham warehouse.

I say it was hunting, but I suppose it may have just become frustrated trying to find a parking space.

Cooper's Hawks are one of our most frequently seen urban raptors, but it was not always so.  As recently as the 1990's, urban Coop nests were noteworthy and sightings still pretty infrequent.  Its recent increase in numbers and urban occurrence have been reported in many parts of the country, begging the question what could cause these changes in such widespread areas essentially simultaneously.


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