How, exactly, do hawks hunt?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by farmgirlroots, Oct 9, 2013.

  1. farmgirlroots

    farmgirlroots Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in Oregon and the main hawk we see is the Redtailed Hawk. I'm letting our hens free range our small, fenced back yard when I'm home. Even though we are urban I've been surprised at the amount of hawks seen flying above in the last few months that I've had chickens and therefore care to notice such things. How exactly do they hunt, or rather, come in for the kill, when I've seen them they've been flying in large lazy circles way up high. When they find prey they want do they start circling lower and lower? Do they swoop down from their circling? Or are they more likely to find something like a tree to perch in before diving down? I'm just curious as to the nature of their hunting skills and so far from the YouTube videos I've watched on it and other info I've read my specific question hasn't been answered.
     
  2. DStewart PDX

    DStewart PDX Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm in Portland, and there are plenty of hawks at my house. One day I looked out my back door and there was a juvenile hawk just hanging out on the deck with two of my hens. I am not an expert. This is what my neighbor said. She said hawks depend on falling on their prey at high speed from the sky, claws out. She said once the hawk is on the ground, it is completely harmless. Their only weapons are their claws. When a hawk grabs prey, it happens pretty quickly. I worry most about hawks when I am first transitioning chicks from the brooder to the yard. I have been making "air raid shelters" for a couple of years. These are a couple of old doors on their sides, leaned against some buckets, to make a sort of lean-to. I have one in each of two wide open places in the yard that don't provide other cover. I can't say for sure, but it seems to help prevent losses to raptors.
     
  3. shmccarthy

    shmccarthy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hawks will usually look their prey from above when circling. They have amazing vision an can even spot a mouse from that high up. Once they find their prey, they will roost on a branch or a telephone pole and watch the prey. Once the hawk believes that it has a good opportunity, it swoops to the prey. In a chickens case, it will generally happen one of two ways. If the chicken is small enough, a young chick or bantam sized, it may carry the prey off. If it is larger it will land either on top of or near the chicken and start eating the chicken on the back and neck area, standing on top of it. There may be other ways this can happen, but this is a generalization of what happens in a hawk attacking a chicken. You can deter hawks only because they are federally protected. Some methods that I have heard that work are hanging CDs or anything that reflects, off of branches and tall areas. Hawks don't like the reflective surface because it obstructs their view. You also should make sure you have a top of some kind on your run (I don't know if you do or not). If you are free ranging, make sure there is plenty of ground cover. A hawk won't typically chase a chicken on the ground into thick bushes and brambles. My chickens alarm when anything flies over (helicopters included ;) ) and will all hide in the bushes. I've noticed my rooster is very good at looking for hawks. If you don't mind crows, you can find a way to bring them into your property. Hawks and crows do not like each other and crows will run hawks off occasionally. I have not lost to a hawk yet, using a mixture of these methods.
     
  4. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: She's totally wrong.
    They PREFER to kill by striking from above, but their talons and beaks are just as strong on the ground as they are anywhere else
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    This is limited to those I have direct observations on. All will also pilfer young birds from in and around nest and make no effort to be fast or sneaky when doing it.

    Red-tails (bubba hawks)
    The almost always operate from a perch during detection phase. Bird usually target rodents and looks for fluorescent rodent latrines and weights for a rodent to come our for a potty break. They also will keep eyes open for other prey including chickens and seem to attack still from a perch. Attack is usually through fast glide without any real chase. They sometime tag team squirrels. They can take down even a game rooster in the open.


    Coopers
    More varied but lots of initial prey detection from a perch. They move in short flights from perch to perch and try to get in range of prey without being seen. Then hawk flies in fast and sometimes uses cover to obscure approach. Bird will often pursue prey even after detected. Pursuit will go through heavy vegetation and even involve foot-chase. Males in particular with fly over cover patches and attempt to flush songbirds and give chase when one is flushed. They have descent endurance but don't seem able to fly down something like a dove or pigeon once the prey gets up speed. These guys can accelerate very fast and turn on a dime. They also get stupid and chase prey right between your legs. These guys seem to target chicks but adult games seem more than capable of stopping these guys.


    Sharp-shinned
    Like Coopers but go after prey without as much stealth and they engage in long duration chases even through very heavy cover. They seem much better than Coopers at catching prey out of large flocks that confuse Coopers. I have never lost a chicken to these guys and have good reason to believe my adult chickens could kill or maim such a hawk in a single buckling.
     
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  6. DStewart PDX

    DStewart PDX Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here I thought my air raid shelters were working great, but really I haven't had hawk problems because my street is literally infested with crows! :D
     
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    I think that your neighbor is confusing a red tail hawk with a peregrine falcon. Hawks fly about as well as a crop duster, highly maneuverable but still a strictly slow, low altitude tree top predator. Falcons catch flying prey on the wing (that means while the falcon itself is on the wing) usually killing their prey when they strike it or when the disabled prey falls from 1,000s of feet. A falcon puts me in mind of F16 Flying Falcon fighter jet, extremely fast and deadly to everything that flies.

    That said I have watched a breeding pair of Red Tail hawks preform their late winter mating-feeding rituals (like humans on a dinner date or roosters with a morsel calling his hens) and the female red tail watches from beyond all hope of unaided human viewing while the male hawk showcases his hunting skills at low altitude. After the male makes a kill the female red tail will spiral downward to share in the kill and to supposedly score the chick raising potential of her suitor.

    Over the years I have rescued several fully grown chickens from red tail hawks. (small or young chickens are killed to quickly for there to be any hope of rescue) Both chickens survived without lasting ill effects. This was possible because the local crows were giving the hawk heck double hockey sticks until I showed up to relieve the crows. This meant that the hawk was too busy fighting off crows to get down to a hawks' business. A hawks' business is eating a helpless hen or rooster alive while the hawk controls it with his talons.

    I totally agree with the balance of nature thing, but there are heaps of malarkey being strewn around by the nature is beautiful
    crowd. Nature it isn't beautiful, its nature for Peat's sake. If you can stand to watch it because I can't, there is a youtube video out there of a grown giraffe being eaten alive and disemboweled while a lioness holds it down by the nose for the 45 minutes it takes the giraffe to die. There are also numerous posts on BYC about people rescuing a chicken from the clutches of a hawk, some of these posts with supporting photos. WARNING: if you are offended by one chicken supposedly bullying another don't view these photos!!!

    A red tail hunts from low altitude and quite often from a perch like a tree, an electric pole, or a phone cable while keeping his eyes pealed for any movement that could be dinner (are you ready for this now?) and watching it like a hawk until the time is right to pounce. For a hawk intent on catching your hens or roosters the time to pounce is generally when your chicken is isolated and far from cover.

    I doubt there is a female red tail hawk alive that can fly off with a full size hen. Since a male red tail is only 75% as big as a female red tail I KNOW there isn't a male red tail hawk alive who can do the deed. For either sex of hawk It would be like a Piper Cub picking up and flying off with an F150 Ford pickup truck dangling from the Piper's landing gear.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013
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  8. suebee

    suebee Speaks Silkie Fluently

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    Never a hawk attack here. I've had free range silkies for over 10 years and no hawks ever got them, even in the rain when the silkies appear even smaller. I think it's the yard. We have trees and bushes everywhere so no landing strip for a hawk. I have seen them come down for a dove but never my silkies. I really don't know why the hawks don't prey on them. Lucky...so far.
    Here's the yard with lots of hiding places:
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    [​IMG]
     
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Your yard looks a little busy for a red tailed hawk, but it seems about right for a coopers hawk or the smaller still Sharp Shinned/Blue Darter hawk which may run down prey on the ground or dive under the spruce looking tree on the left side of the first proto to flush or nab a pullet who is reluctant to join the hawk at his dinner table. However these two species seldom kill grown, full size chickens, preferring young chickens about the size of the dove you witnessed a hawk come down to catch. But once they find your young chickens and realize how easy they are to catch and how good they taste these two hawk species will earn their reputation of hanging around as long as the food holds out.
     
  10. suebee

    suebee Speaks Silkie Fluently

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    Yep, I certainly agree but after 10 years of free ranging silkies 3 months or older I can conclude that I'm extremely lucky or the hawks around here are really dumb.
     

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