Hawk gets mugged! A peaceful lunch turns into an armed heist

The title says it all – this hawk got mugged! OK, perhaps “armed heist” is an exaggeration and “winged heist” might be more apt, but this was a pretty aggressive mugging so we’re going with it.

The story: A Cooper’s hawk, minding his own business and slowly eating his way through the carcass of a dove he’d just managed to snag, was mugged by a much bigger bird. One second he’s standing on the dove enjoying his somewhat gory lunch and the next, wham!, another hawk storms in, knocks hawk #1 off his stump, and steals the dove.

We asked an expert, Dr. Kevin McGowan at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/), to help us out with an educated interpretation of what happened here – was this really a hostile encounter or was hawk #1 perhaps actually guarding the remains of the dove for hawk #2? Dr. McGowan told us that #1 was a young male Cooper’s hawk and #2 was a much larger female (in most raptor species, the female birds are bigger than the males). And this was definitely a mugging. There was nothing cooperative about it.

We filmed the video in January 2023, too early for nesting, and the birds certainly didn’t behave like mates, so it’s unlikely that the female was thinking of feeding young. And in fact, she stayed for an hour so and consumed every last scrap of the dove. All that remained were feathers, blowing about in the breeze.

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