What is this hawk up to? Part 1

This large hawk has been hanging around Drexel Hill Elementary School for three days.
The school is located in the Northern Piedmont about 6 miles west of Philadelphia, PA. The school grounds consist of open fields that are mowed on a regular basis. This photograph was taken at about 5-10 feet away from the bird, and yet it seems almost comfortable with the presence of a human, like it is focused on more important matters! As you can see, it is sitting on a schoolyard fence, relatively close to the ground. The photographer notes that the bird has been busy fighting off crows during its three day visit.

Questions for you:

  1. Why would a large hawk be perched this close to the ground, be relatively non-responsive to human presence, and lingering for three days around a school yard?
  2. What kind of hawk do you think this is?
  3. What does the presence of this bird say about local ecosystem health, if anything?

Notes and links that may be of help:

  • Immediately south of the school is a very large cemetery (130 acres) containing large trees (the cemetery is over 110 years old) and lots of open green space.
  • Immediately to the Northeast is Hillcrest Elementary School, a small forest and stream, and another large and old cemetery.
  • The school is located in a Philadelphia suburb (the Northern Piedmont) and the vast majority of the area is covered with a tight network of houses and roads.
  • www.allaboutbirds.org
  • What’s this hawk up to? Part 2

9 thoughts on “What is this hawk up to? Part 1

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think there must be a baby near by.
    My theory is that she is protecting an offspring that is injured or not quite ready to fly.



  2. Anonymous says:

    If there's a good sized murder of crows nearby, the hawk might be there to raid the nursery.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This bird is a young Red Tailed Hawk. Sounds like it has found a good hunting area. Young birds, especially RTH are not as frightened of people as some others. Another possibility is the young bird could be a falconer's lost bird and habituated to people. Has anyone seen the bird fly or make a catch? Don't assume it's not injured or compromised. Get a knowledgeable person to observe it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Some come into an area with lots of squirrels, and stay for a month or so, until all the easy to catch squirrels are gone, then move onto another.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Cooper's hawks (an Accipiter)have short wings and long tails, both of which allow it to manuever in its quest to ambush small flying birds.
    The RTH (a Buteo) is a glider, a soaring bird, and thus has bigger, longer, broader wings. It's food source differs significantly from the Cooper's. The hawk's body is developed accordingly. Do a google search for "differences between Accipter and Buteo", and you'll find numerous distinctions mentioned. It's helpful to also cross-reference google images of both birds. You'll notice immediately the differences in tail-length. Of course, the overall body size is a significant difference as well. the Cooper's is not a whole lot bigger than a crow.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I guessed young Red Tailed Hawk, too. This rules out the possibility of a your visitor protecting its young. I was not aware that RTHs were commonly used by falconers. I see them so often perched in trees along highways. This one seems to have found a great "bird's eye view" for hunting!

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