This evening I received the birding club newsletter and by co-incidence the publication was filled with data seeking to answer this question: are there actually more Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks in our county now than there used to be, or does it just seem that way as casual observers have commented?
What was co-incidental about that? Well, I just had a conversation earlier today about a theory I read that there are more hawks coming around bird feeders than there used to be because the hawks are suffering from a loss of habitat. That was right after all the Pine Siskins flew every which way from their bird feeder when something big and fast flew by. Was it a hawk? I didn’t see what the fast flying object was, but that’s what started the conversation.
It may be true that hawks are losing habitat. But the data presented in today’s birding club newsletter suggests the competition for food is due to an increase in their populations.
To answer the question about the seeming hawk population increase, a birding club member who is a naturalist at the forest preserve district wildlife center dug into data he found from Audubon Society Christmas and Spring Bird Counts as far back as 1973.
I’ll spare you the graphs, charts and count data. But here is the conclusion:
Yes, in fact the data show an approximate 62% increase in these raptors over the years for which the data is available.
Factors that may have led to this increase include:
- recent milder winters so the birds do not migrate or do not migrate as far south
- hawks have adapted well to suburban life especially with more people feeding wild birds
- the banning of DDT
- the birds’ having adapted to human presence
- more birders and bird count participants with increasing identification skills
I’ve been meaning to join the birding club’s annual “Hawk Watch” that’s held each September. Inspired by the data, 2013 might be my year to try.