The Hawk Incident

Hawk wing too close for the Bazooka to focus

I was sure I had posted this story in August 2021 after it happened, but I apparently got distracted by my mom’s death and didn’t post the incident with a Cooper’s Hawk. I mentioned the story to Brad, who had posted a story on Brian’s Wildlife Intrigued, and Brad wanted to see photos. It took me a while to find the photos because I couldn’t remember right off hand when the incident took place.

I was out on the beach photographing the pTerodactyl one afternoon in late August 2021 when a dove came flying straight at me with a Cooper’s Hawk on its tail. The dove took evasive action at the last second to avoid crashing into me, which made the hawk do the same thing. I was trying to get photos, but everything happened quickly, and the dove and the hawk were too close for the Bazooka to focus on them since its minimum focus distance is 11 feet. The hawk and dove collided right above my head, but the hawk could not grab onto the dove. The dove flew into the salt cedar, and the hawk flew into the bosque.

I checked on the dove, and it seemed to be okay. As I walked from the river bed into the bosque, the hawk was waiting for me. It flew over me, chattering up a storm, and then it landed on a low branch about 15 feet from me and started giving me a beak lashing up one side and down the other about me messing up its kill. That hawk chattered at me for several minutes, flew to another branch, and chattered at me some more before it flew into the salt cedar to see if the dove was still there.

Cooper’s Hawk flying away after colliding with the dove.

Cooper’s Hawk flying to a tree to scold me as it flew over me.

Cooper’s Hawk telling me off for messing up its kill.

Cooper Hawk flew into the salt cedar to see if the dove was still there.

61 thoughts on “The Hawk Incident

  1. Love this story, Tim. Any one who does not believe that animals have personalities, intelligence and feelings needs to read this account. You were honored by Hawk when time was taken out of its hunt to yell at you. Wonderful interaction!

    • And it wasn’t my fault that the dove out smarted the hawk, but the hawk had to tell me all about it. I saw a flicker with a hawk on its tail fly straight for a cottonwood veering off at the last second causing he hawk narrowly miss smashing into the tree. It was a brilliant maneuver by the flicker. The dove use the same tactic, but I was the object it aimed for. Thanks, Maj and Sher.

      • I enjoyed the story and photos, Tim. You seem to be in the right place at the right time for a lot of interesting animal interactions! I’ve seen sparrow hawks here chase small birds, who dive into lemon balm and spearmint by the garage. The hawk narrowly misses crashing into the side of thee garage. They look rather irritated afterwards.

      • When we had a different bamboo patch and two large crabapple trees hanging over the deck, Cooper’s Hawks would dive into the bamboo, grab a Sparrow, and then perch on a branch in the crabapple and join us for lunch with his sparrow. Thanks, Lavinia.

  2. You are understandably much braver than I am! About all I can take is a stare down from a squirrel. That hawk is magnificent, but I’m glad the dove got away. Great captures and story, Tim!

  3. Tim, thanks for digging up the story and photos from your close encounter with a dove and a Coopers. The backstory makes the photos that much more visceral. So far my closest encounter was with a kalij pheasant rustling through leaves rather loudly. Certainly glad you weren’t harmed during the encounter. Funny that the nickname for your big glass is the same one a photographer friend of mine gave to my big glass: the Bazooka. I had similar close distance auto-focus issues with a subject in a yet-to-be published “solitaire-y” article on Wildlife Intrigued. Thank you very much for remembering, looking up the photos and then publishing the story.

    • Thank you for reminding me. Laurie had an encounter with a pheasant once where it attacked her. She ended up in an all-out brawl with that bird, beating it back with a big stick, whacking it like it was a mush ball and it would not give up. She finally was able to cross the ditch and it kept staying up with her on the other side of the ditch waiting for her to cross again so he could continue the fight. Tenacious bird.

      • Luckily “my” pheasants were busy attending to the female that quietly emerged from the same patch of leaves. They did circle around my feet but otherwise left me alone.

  4. Thanks for posting this story! It’s always interesting to read about the background or incidents that can happen…

  5. Wow! How cool to witness this! Considering the speed I can easily imagine things happening, it’s wonderful that you were able to capture what you did. I can just imagine the “beak lashing” you got for “being in the way”.

  6. wow. I guess you’re lucky that you are big enough that he only yelled at you!
    How long ago what that? I’m sorry about your Mom’s passing.

  7. Wow, now that is an incredible wildlife encounter. Guessing that dove is forever indebted to you and well, you know first hand what the Cooper thinks of you. I will say, based on my experience, that doves are very fast fliers and based on that assuming those two birds were reaching peak velocity when they encountered you. Quite the thrill – oh, and a big thanks for the shout out!

    • You’re welcome. Thanks to Brad for reminding me of the story. It would have never been posted, otherwise.

    • Hawks will nest near people and then attack people as they come and go after their chicks are born. We are fortunate that the owls put up with us. I’ve heard of GHOs will attack people that get too close to their nests.

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