Every Friday morning, I meet with five other gentlemen (they will appreciate this – being gentlemen) for coffee and conversation. Four of our bunch are deep into birds. Two are accomplished gardeners, (where better to find birds than in a well appointed garden). We have an accomplished ornithologist (that’s a bird scientist, if you didn’t know), a professional falconer, an author, and a photographer (which is me). All of us have had profound exposure to the environment, and consequently a deep appreciation for it, whether through our work, our upbringing or both.
Last Friday, we examined the above photograph that I had taken earlier in the week. I knew that it was a Cooper’s Hawk, but Steve, the falconer, told me that it was a male, probably two years old. I’ll have to ask again about the gender. I don’t know what clues he saw. But the eye and breast color established age. First year birds have a lighter and streaked pattern on their breasts. The eye color gets deeper and more vibrant as the bird ages. Older birds will have dark red eyes.
I also learned that even this fellow’s choice of perch has significance. Even as Cooper’s Hawks prey upon smaller birds, they themselves are vulnerable to bigger birds, like Red-tailed Hawks. The surrounding tree branches provide a level of protection from sudden and unseen attacks. Life is too precious to leave anything to happenstance.