Today, when leaving a client’s home in Cary, I noticed a low flying hawk swooping across the road. The bird flew into a holly near the entrance to the street. My client’s neighbor was walking toward her mailbox about 20′ from the bird–she didn’t see it land in the tree, but said she did hear a strange noise.
I stopped my car and stepped toward the tree to see what was happening. I was able to get quite close and the hawk didn’t fly off. The neighbor and I watched as a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) landed in the back of the holly. We talked about how amazing it was that this hawk was still so close. After a few minutes I finally realized I had my camera in the car and moved slowly to retrieve it. I then tried to get closer hoping the bird would stay. It did move into a more visible spot, and I was able to get about 10′ from it to take some pics.
Here’s my first pic, he just moved to a more visible spot, but one that was also a better launching area. He seemed more comfortable deeper in the plant with fewer pointy leaves and sturdier branches for perching. I was hoping he wasn’t about to leave. (Click pics to embiggen.)
He stuck around for more pics:
How nice of him to pose for me! But things weren’t perfect for this big guy:
Those thin twigs out near the leaves make it really hard for such a big bird to perch securely. And he still had that angry mockingbird bugging him. I couldn’t find any nearby nest for the smaller bird, someone suggested the hawk had already plundered it. I don’t know how far mockingbirds will chase predators. I will soon see how far this one will go. Shortly after the hawk did fly off to a nearby pine tree. The mockingbird went right along with him, perching in a nearby branch and occasionally dive bombing the hawk. This pic isn’t very good, and I was still shocked I was so close to him:
After a few more minutes the hawk flew off down the street with the mockingbird close on his tail. I’m always surprised how close smaller birds will get to a predator, but I suppose they know how close they can get and they stay above and to the back of the hawk. I suppose that’s a safe place to be if you are going to chase a hawk like this.
I expect I could have followed this guy down the road, he didn’t look as if he wanted to go very far, but sadly needed to get out of there myself.
Back at the office, I was able to check the identity of the hawk and concluded he was an adult Red Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) from that flash of his red tail. As one of the more common hawks in my area, I thought he was a red tail, but consulted my bird book to be sure.
On a similar note: After our recent storms (tornadoes nearby, but not at my place), I found the body of one of my neighborhood’s Red Shouldered Hawks (Buteo luneatus) in a nearby stream. Yesterday I was happy to see its companions flying loudly overhead.