It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of these avian hunters – Cooper’s hawks. They do a good job of staying out of human sight along the Anacostia River Tributary Trail System. We spotted this one by accident as we walked briskly through the Sligo Creek woods.
These birds frequently hunt by conducting high-speed chases through tree canopies to surprise their prey. According to The Cornell Labs All About Birds, though, it’s dangerous work that leads to frequent crashes: one study found that 23 percent of Cooper’s hawks showed old fractures in their chests. (A similar study would find that result in my chest and collarbones from many years of bicycling.)
The only time a Cooper’s hawk has let me admire it came about two years ago. A young one took a little rest in my neighbor’s tree. Its yellow eye and brown-streaking underparts suggest it was immature – not a statement about personality but age.