While wandering around my home borough on Sunday morning doing some post-snowstorm birding I made my way to Oakland Lake in northeastern Queens with the hope of finding Rusty Blackbirds to add to my year list. I circumnavigated the pond, got my blackbirds, and was about to get back in my car and head home when I noticed a bird-shaped form on the edge of the frozen lake against the phragmites. Binoculars to eyes and wow! A Cooper’s Hawk devouring a Feral Pigeon! I snapped a couple of quick shots with my 100-400mm lens which I had carried because I didn’t feel like lugging my digiscoping rig around the pond through six inches of snow. The light was mostly against me and the bird wasn’t very close so the pictures weren’t very good.
Fortunately, my car was very close so I walked over, got my digiscoping gear out, and set up in a spot with a better light angle and less obstruction from the phragmites. Yes, this was much better!
At first the Cooper’s Hawk was content to sit and eat.
I could really take my time and get some decent shots. Note the half-closed nictating membrane on the eye.
One thing I love about digiscoping is how much detail you can find after the fact. I believe the round things are the pigeon’s last meal, ripped from its digestive tract. That is, unless there are a bunch of weird round organs inside of pigeons that I have never heard of.
We should all be glad that we are too big for Cooper’s Hawks to try to eat us. Because we would be doomed.
I love that I had plenty of time to shoot some video. You might notice that during the video you can hear a Ring-billed Gull call: something put up the flock that had been roosting on the ice. I never saw what flushed them but once they flushed the hawk got much more antsy.
It turned itself around so it was facing the lake and spent very little time eating. Was it full or was it nervous about something?
Then the hawk started repositioning the carcass, not bothering to eat at all anymore.
It dragged the pigeon through the phragmites.
Once it was out on the open ice it stopped for a moment and looked back before it flew off into the woods.
It was a very rewarding experience watching the hawk feed on the pigeon though perhaps not as memorable as one eating shish kebob. If you want to see what other birds were around on Oakland Lake check out my eBird checklist.
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.
Pat’s 2017 Year List – 603
Corey’s 2017 Year List – 558
Donna’s 2017 Year List – 370
Clare M’s 2017 Year List – 315
Tom’s 2017 Year List – 183
Jochen’s 2017 Year List – 242
Pat’s 2016 Year List – 882
Donna’s 2016 Year List – 709
Clare M’s 2016 Year List – 464
Pat’s 2015 Year List – 700
Donna’s 2015 Year List – 514
Corey’s 2015 Year List – 506
Duncan’s 2015 Year List – 491
Redgannet’s 2015 Year List – 394
Clare M’s 2015 Year List – 340
Jochen’s 2015 Year List – 160