There are a lot of squawks in our yard, but this one caught my attention with its brevity. I chased the sound to the top of our oak tree just in time to see a heavy, long-tailed bird flap off. I thought it might be a grouse. Later, I heard the call again, and saw a pair of the birds swoop around the house. Not grouse, for sure. Birds of prey.
That was over the weekend. Today the squawking bird greeted us as we got home from work. Not only did he sit on a snag long enough for Chris to find the telephoto lens, he didn't seem put off by my son, who was busy dumping handfuls of dirt into his toy wheelbarrow. Perhaps the bird was eying Gabe as a potential meal.
I'm no birder. Is this a Cooper's hawk, perhaps? It's about the size of a crow. The pitch of its size matches the calls that can be heard here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the individual "squawks" match the description of the "kik" call that the male makes to tell the female where he is.
But then again, it could be a sharp-shinned hawk:
"Separating Sharp-shinned Hawks from Cooper's Hawks is one of the classic birding challenges. The birds look very similar and can be similarly sized. Cooper's Hawks have a larger head that juts farther out ahead of the wings compared with Sharp-shinned's pinhead. Cooper's have "hackles" that are sometimes raised, giving them a fierce look versus Sharp-shinned's more timid, round head. Adults have a pale nape, making them look like they're wearing a dark cap. Juvenile Cooper's Hawks are more finely streaked below than Sharp-shinned. When perched, look for Cooper's Hawk's thicker legs and big feet."
For some reason I thought identifying large predatory birds would be easier than identifying obscure plants. Sheesh.