Monday, January 8, 2024

Quail danger

We get a lot of quail at the bird feeder.

Sometimes we get so many that they're literally climbing on top each other, the greedy things.

But once in a while, the quail will explode off the porch in panic. Those that don't evacuate instantly will freeze into immobility. Sometimes I catch the source of this mad scramble in the form of a hawk flashing by, but it was always too fast to identify what kind of hawk it was.

Yesterday I came around the corner of the porch and startled one quail who had been cowering under our porch rocker. The bird made a mad dash for the cover of some blackberry brambles across the road, screaming in terror because the hawk was on her tail.

The hawk landed on the road in front of the blackberry bushes, frustrated that its prey was now out of reach.

Then it hopped onto a post and posed for a long time. Doubtless the quail were cowering in fear in the bushes.

The hawk hopped to another post while I kept photographing it.

Later, after I downloaded the photos, I tried to figure out what kind of hawk it was. And here's the thing: I couldn't decide. It was like a generic "McHawk" with few identifying characteristics. One thing is clear, it was a juvenile of some kind. But the juveniles of many hawks look virtually identical.

The most distinguishing feature of the bird was the white band above its eyes.

For this reason, at first I was inclined to think it was a juvenile red-tailed hawk, which are common around here.

However juvenile red-tail hawks have a buff breast, which this bird conspicuously did not.

The closest match I could find was a juvenile goshawk.

However these are far less common, and I can't imagine they're hunting in our backyard. Or are they?

Bottom line, I have no idea what periodically swoops through and terrifies the quail. Swainson's hawk, perhaps? (Though in viewing Google Images, it doesn't seem likely.) Does anyone know?


  1. It looks like a Coopers Hawk to me. I googled it and several photos look about like that.

  2. That was my first thought. Cooper's Hawk.

  3. I think I would have to lean toward the Goshawk with you. This one is not an easy ID. As far as 'range' I have learned to give that LOTS of wiggle room. This past summer we had a male Blue Grosbeak in our shelter belt all summer. I can't see him not going elsewhere in search of a mate, and I never saw/heard more than one all summer when in the corrals or tending the garden. (A friend got beautiful photos! He was a handsome bird!)

    In about 2005 or so we had Scissor's Tailed Fly Catchers nest in a tree by our small dam. I believe it was the 7th reported siting in our state and the 3rd photographed. None of this might be exciting to some people considering that Fly Catcher is the Oklahoma state bird. However, ours nested about 180 miles due south of Canada! While we have numerous Grosbeaks that range in our area, the Blues are 'supposed to be' farther south. Natokadn

  4. That's a Coopers hawk. I had one fly into my window to it's death(felt really bad). I have pics of me holding it with spread wings. Beautiful bird.