This morning around sunrise I was helping my gf with her morning chores; feeding horses, filling birdfeeders, etc. When we fed the domestic geese that live on our pond, a wild mallard came in for a landing, followed closely by a sharp shinned hawk!
The hawk veered off after the mallard splashed down. A few minutes later, a great blue heron flew in on the opposite side of the pond. Once again, the sharp shinned hawk (I assume the same one) flew at the heron. The heron spread its wings and danced around, and the sharpie flew off.
A few minutes later, the hawk was in our front yard, provoking a murder of crows with no response to our shouting at it to move on.
In my experience, this sharp shinned hawk behavior is unusual. Anyone care to explain it? Delusions of grandeur in an avian maybe? Could the hawk have fed on something or have a disease causing unusual behavior? I know only mammals get rabies, but is there an avian analogue?
(If you’ve never seen one, sharpies are pretty small birds of prey.)
Possibly territorial display? WAG, but maybe there is a new hatchling close-by and the new parent(s) get more uptight with others nearby? Or possibly the bird is in ‘rut’ (avian-style, of course) and is all wound-up with hormones/aggressiveness? No idea if hawks do such things.
I’ve seen kinda similar activity with Mississippi Kites that annually nest in tall trees around our yard. Every now and then, an adult will take measures (swooping/screeching/etc) to keep the area under the nest-tree(s) clear of anything smaller than an elephant A few weeks later, there are usually a few more juveniles flying around the area until they all head south for winter.
It is neat to watch little birds acting like the infamous chicken hawk of Foghorn Leghorn fame! Birds do some odd things - often quite inexplicable to us humans, no doubt.
Maybe it came up with the behaviour for this specific purpose.
The only problem is that breeding season is over-he could still be acting territorially of course.
Inexperienced juvenile trying to figure out what’s the right size animal to hunt, and being intimidated by the larger prey animals?
Sharpies usually hunt small birds that they ambush from cover. Going after large water birds is definitely anomalous.
It’s not the right time of year for nest defense or territorial aggression. At this time of years sharpies are migrating or getting ready to.
Is it a juvenile (streaked below) or an adult (barred reddish below)? Offhand Sailboat’s explanation strikes me as the most likely. It could be a migrating juvenile that hasn’t had much success in catching food and is so hungry it is making passes at inappropriate prey. (A very hungry adult could conceivably do the same.)
I am not aware of any bird disease that would provoke attacks of this kind.
The bird was an adult.
Thanks for the info! It was a very cool morning, indeed. Our bird-feeders are set up specifically to make predation difficult, yet we still occasionally see evidence of a mourning dove or cardinal being taken.
Now I feel a bit bad for the bird, if hunger led to its strange behavior.