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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Northern Goshawk

Carnage...blood, feathers, body parts…that’s what we saw when we opened our curtains this morning. 

All winter, we’ve fed Mallards and American Black ducks.  Instead of seeing 3 to 4 dozen ducks waiting for cracked-corn breakfast, we saw 3 ducks huddled under the branches of cedar trees in the neighbour’s yard.  In the tamped down space where we feed the ducks, we saw blood and feathers and bits of duck.  My stomach rolled.
What had happened?  What had killed the duck?  Where was the rest of the duck?

Figuring that dead-duck bits would be off-putting for the usual crowd, Gary went outside and cleaned up the mess.   We didn’t put out any food for the morning feeding, not wanting to entice more ducks to their doom.   Despite this, we knew that we couldn’t stop feeding ducks in mid-winter; they were accustomed to us providing for them.
Soon after the duck-remains removal, we looked out and noticed a Northern Goshawk sitting in one of our maples, 40 feet away.   Patient, it sat there waiting and surveying the yard.  We grabbed the camera and began taking photos.

To our surprise, it floated down and began rooting around, digging in the snow, searching for the duck remains.  The Goshawk must have carried away the biggest part of the duck and had now returned for the head and neck, it had left behind. 

The Northern Goshawk was 15 feet away from our kitchen windows.  It watched us, watching it.  It stared back at us and kept on digging.

Eventually, the Northern Goshawk flew away with a murder of crows squawking and chasing it away from their nests and our yard. 

The ducks?   The Goshawk was still around.  Crows were flying overhead, their raucous cries filled the air.  The ducks circled but didn’t land.  The robins and chickadees were hiding.  The yard was still, deathly still.

Deadly, agile and able to fly with lightning-fast turns through the trees in our yard, the Northern Goshawk was hunting.

We felt badly about the duck kill, even though we knew that this was nature, was reality, was the food chain.

We were grateful and felt fortunate to have seen this powerful bird, up close, even though it killed one of "our" ducks.  The Northern Goshawk was a stunning sight, despite the carnage.  It was being what nature created it to be...a ferocious predator.

All photos are mine.  Words in red will take you to another site, if you click on them. 
There you will find additional information about Northern Goshawks.


Gwen Buchanan said...

It is a very handsome bird... but as you say it was doing as nature intended.. sorry for the duck..

nice close-ups..

Carol Steel said...

We were upset about the duck. It was fascinating to watch the Goshawk. It stayed near the yard until dark this evening.

Jane Tims said...

Hi Carol. Very interesting post. What a story! I love the similar colors of the Goshawk's beak and feet. I am sorry for the duck, but what a wonderful opportunity for photos of a bird you wouldn't ordinarily see so well. The raptors are on the move. We've watched a few Rough-leg Hawks down along the Sheffield area for a couple of weekends. Jane

John Ackerson said...

The little devil even has red eyes!

You have how many ducks that you're feeding all winter? Do you buy the feed in volume, or did you just buy the company?

Crafty Green Poet said...

it's a magnificent bird! Sad to see it eat one of your ducks, but yes, as you say that's nature!

Carol Steel said...

Thanks for the comment. It was a fascinating opportunity, rare in our urban area. Because we were behind the windows, we could take close photos safely. The Goshawk was staring us down. I wouldn't have wanted to be outside.

Carol Steel said...

Hi John,
Yes, the mature Goshawks have bright red eyes...a bit spooky. We do buy duck feed in bulk, every three weeks. Maybe that was the attraction for the hawk, well-fed ducks.

Carol Steel said...

We were upset by the Goshawk's violence but then we realized that it was doing what it has to do to survive. It seems to have moved on now. No sign of it today at all.