That’s the nickname of our residence Cooper’s Hawk. We considered other nicknames briefly, Howard Hawks; Hudson Hawk, perhaps Danny Aiello’s least proud film; Tony Hawk, but that last one was definitely beneath him. ‘Shorty’ fit the best for someone about the size of a loaf of bread. We can’t tell which gender so we have arbitrarily assigned “he” due to his majestic countenance. He has been with us since the winter 2008. I’m not sure exactly what drew him to us that winter, the warmth of the patio woodpile or plenty of food for him in the area. I noticed him one morning when I looked outside our bedroom window.
There he was hanging out quietly on the woodpile on the patio outside our kitchen. I guess he knew that he doesn’t look like a turkey so it’s safe to be close to our kitchen. I first photographed him, then took a video of him plucking a Downey Woodpecker. Mr. Shorty trusted me enough to let me open the bedroom window, stick the camera out and take his portrait. He even let me go out the patio door and take his photo with just a three foot wide glass table between us. It was an amazing experience. Perhaps slightly perturbed, he put up with me until I threw some ground turkey at him. Well, I did it with good intention since I saw him miss a few catches… He seemed hungry. ‘Here, some fresh ground turkey.’ Insulted, he flew off. Bill said he probably got insulted that the turkey I offered wasn’t as fresh as our organic songbirds. But, he was back the next day.
This past winter he pretty much lived with us. As much as we like him and are in awe of his nobility and dignified look, we love our song birds more. We wish that he would be more discriminating against Starlings, House Sparrow, Cow Bird and Grackles, but Downey Woodpeckers seem to be his favorite…. in a horrifying way. Bill started to chase him off the patio. I like playing ‘good cop.’ He flew off annoyed and circled around the house to the Rhododendron in the front. When he was chased from the front, he would fly to the tree in the back yard. If we annoyed him enough, he would fly off to the forest nearby.
We discovered leftovers under the rhododendron and realized we’d found his current favored picnic area. So we took a cue from the Park Service and fenced it off with a slightly smaller gage than we thought he could fit through. He has adapted, but it did shorten his roosting areas.
Perhaps he has a conscience or just felt sorry for us because lately we’ve found the remains of Blackbirds and Mourning Dove. We have a surfeit of both so perhaps I should post a thank you note to him since the doves love to sit on my seedlings and don’t do much else and the Blackbirds are among the more annoying pests that rob the feeders and chase out the song birds. Of course, if he ever develops a taste for squirrel, ..we have plenty of them too. But that’s another bird feeder tale.