Creatures in Albuquerque

Bee in Cosmos

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures: the desert is full of interesting plants and animals, even in the middle of a city like Albuquerque. I don’t see as many different hawks up in my part of town as Tim Price does down on the Rio Grande bosque (see his blog, very wide ranging but full of wildlife), but the ones I do see are pretty reliable. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks like the NE Heights of Albuquerque, because people put out feeders that attract little birds. The little birds are what the hawks mostly go for. However, I never let my cats out, and the neighbor of a friend found the remains of his Pomeranian on top of the roof, thanks to hawks. During nesting season, people are advised to take umbrellas to the city’s parks, to avoid being dive bombed by the hawks protecting their young.

One morning last week I was out to photograph the sunrise. So, of course, I had a landscape lens on the camera. During the sunrise, I saw something I have never seen before: an adult hawk brought its young, seeking breakfast. They were in a tree really outside the range of my lens, but I photographed them anyway. Not a great pic, but you can make out the adult and the young one against the sunrise.

creatures Adult Cooper's Hawk with Young
Adult Cooper’s Hawk with Young, against a Desert Sunrise

Several days later I was out to photograph the hummingbirds. I had just put on my bird lens and gotten comfortable to try to get a few pics of hummers. This hawk almost immediately, and very briefly, flew in and then left. Some of you may remember the images from a hawk visit on August 13, 2013. I photographed this hawk on August 13 of this year. I have never photographed a hawk from this angle, and I find it very elegant with its spread tail. I think it is a young one for a variety of reasons. I’d like to think it was the young one brought by a parent a few days before. 🙂

Creatures Hawk Seeking Breakfast
Hawk Seeking Breakfast, Landing in a Neighbor’s Tree. Great Camouflage!

It caught breakfast next door, and then zoomed back through my yard, finding its safe spot for enjoying its prey.

Several of my neighbors and I have worked hard to develop yards that are pollinator-friendly. We have very busy bees during the day on sunflowers, cosmos, roses, etc. This is the year that I have discovered that some bees like to snuggle in flowers at bedtime. This little guy kept wiggling his butt until he was well settled into the cosmos. He was still there at dawn, but flew out to start his work as soon as the sun had warmed the flower.

 creatures Bee in Cosmos
Bee in Cosmos

So much beauty here in the desert, full of creatures even in town… Today, I offer just a brief sample of hawk family at sunrise, hawk landing in a tree, and a little bee snuggling in at bedtime. The world is a wondrous place.

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

Urban Cooper’s hawk, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was hanging out in a pine tree, waiting for dinner to appear. This is an adult, as opposed to the one in the header image. My neighbors and I have seen this hawk a lot in the past month. Such a hawk is easy to spot when it is flying, or when it lands near a bird feeder. The so-called urban forests of the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque provide easy cover into which they are well camouflaged, however.

I took this photo two minutes into the Super Bowl. When photographic opportunities appear… (Not much was happening in the first two minutes of Super Bowl 🙂 )

urban Cooper's Hawk
The Urban Cooper’s Hawk, Waiting for Dinner to Appear

Last year I briefly saw a fledgling in the yard. I would enjoy seeing more in the yard this year.

Cooper’s Hawk Book Now at ABQ WBU

My Cooper’s Hawk Book Is Now Available at Albuquerque’s Wild Birds Unlimited

My Cooper’s hawk book, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display, is now available at the Albuquerque Wild Birds Unlimited at 7200 Montgomery Blvd NE, 87109. I am very pleased that the paperback book is now available locally, not only because the Cooper’s hawks are found in large numbers here, but because this remarkable display took place in my very own back yard. Serendipity on a Sunday afternoon…

my Cooper's hawk book
Front Cover, “Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display”

For interested friends and readers not in the Albuquerque area, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is available in both Kindle and paperback formats at

Click for Preview

I hope interested friends in the Albuquerque area will stop by Wild Birds Unlimited on Montgomery and support an Albuquerque business that is supporting local photographers and authors.

Individual prints from this Cooper’s hawk courtship display may be purchased at my portfolio site.

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback as Well as Kindle at Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available in paperback format as well as Kindle format at This was a very unusual display, one I was able to catch in photographic images almost by serendipity.

Both formats contain 32 images of this young hawk’s display. A friend wrote last night

I just read it and loved it! The last few images looks like he was bowing at the end of his performance. Amazing! I’m so glad you caught this.

Another friend noted in a review

The most interaction I ever got from Cooper’s Hawks is when they would often bring their catches and sit on a branch that extended over our deck and eat dinner with us.

The Cooper’s Hawk courtship display Susan captured is what makes this book so special and fun. It’s a short visual chronicle of a display rarely given a private exhibition to anyone but a female hawk.

The paperback edition is $12.99. The Kindle edition is $4.99. The title is part of Amazon’s MatchBook program; anyone who purchases the paperback may purchase the Kindle for $1.99 instead of $4.99. Suitable for all ages.

courtship display
Back and Front Paperback Cover

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available as Kindle on Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available at Amazon in a Kindle version. A paperback edition is also coming.

Can be read on most devices with the free Kindle app. (See end of post for link.)

The volume contains 32 images taken on August 3, 2014. At the time, I knew I had witnessed something remarkable. I knew it was a very intense encounter. Initially, I took it to be some type of territorial display.

This spring, after doing some reading and going back through the images, I came to realize it was something quite different. The behavior is described in the literature, but this on the ground (more precisely, in the trees) display is not well documented photographically.

The encounter with this beautiful young hawk was serendipitous. The display was something I knew nothing about until I saw it that day, and it was almost two years later before I grasped its meaning and the insights it gave into the life of a male Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper's Hawk Courtship Display
Young Male Cooper’s Hawk

In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to see and to photograph some rather amazing events that I will remember for the rest of my life – the Blood Red Total Lunar Eclipse of September 2015; the Alignment of Jupiter and Venus in the early morning hours of 2015; and I would add this hawk encounter to that list of things that became important to me as observations of life. – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

Courtship Display

Young Cooper’s Hawk’s In-the-Trees Courtship Display

Courtship display did not even enter my head as I photographed this young Cooper’s hawk putting on some kind of display in a large juniper tree in my neighbor’s back yard. I knew I had never seen anything quite like it, and I felt very lucky to have photographed it. I posted some of the images some time ago, and then things in my life got busy. Then they got even busier.

At the moment, I am still busy, but, at least temporarily, things seem somewhat stable. 2016 has started off great in terms of productivity with photography and photo essays. Color vision is my current passionate interest. In working on that, however, I came across the images of the hawk display. Over time I have come to realize what that display was: a courtship display. This behavior is described in the literature, but photographic documentation is scarce. I decided to take a little break from the color vision, and publish the images, both in paperback format and Kindle format. This is the first volume in a series, “As Seen in New Mexico…”

“Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display” will be available in both formats at Amazon some time in June (mid-to-late). I’ll post when they are available at my Amazon page.

This is the Kindle cover, as well as the front cover for the paperback:

courtship display
Kindle and Paperback Cover

Was this young male just confused, or was there method in his madness??? Stay tuned…

Albuquerque Hawks

Hawks in Albuquerque

Albuquerque hawks, right in the middle of the city, are common. The part of Albuquerque in which I live is known for its high concentration of Cooper’s hawks here in the “urban forest.” in August of 2014 I had a prolonged encounter in my back yard with a young Cooper’s hawk. Since that time, it has been easy to just consider similar appearing hawks to be Cooper’s hawks. This year, however, it has become clear that I am being visited regularly by a beautiful sharp shinned hawk. Not that they are always easy to tell apart, but I am relatively certain that the images I am going to post first are of a sharp shinned hawk, and, given the relatively large size, probably female.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

This hawk has been seen often in the past month or so. I now managed a good look, and feel comfortable with the identification as a sharp shinned hawk.

Sharp Shinned Hawk Landing

These now are some images of a juvenile Cooper’s hawk, with whom I had an extended encounter of August 2014. Part of that encounter was an impressive display of some type, which I have documented elsewhere. At the time I took it to be a territorial display (which it might have been), but I’ve also come to wonder if this juvenile was also putting on a courting display. I’m showing parts of that as individual images, because it allows the viewer to see the underparts in some detail, although from a somewhat unusual perspective as the hawk “mooned” me. 🙂

In this first image, note the pattern on the tail feathers.

Cooper’s Hawk. Note the pattern on the tail feathers, as well as the rest of the underside
Cooper’s Hawk, Showing Underside in Display
Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

These images probably make you wonder, “what is so difficult about telling them apart?” In many ways they really do look alike. A female sharp shinned can be as large as a male Cooper’s. Adults and juveniles of both have different appearances. But, if you are fortunate to have them periodically drop into your back yard, differentiating them becomes – sometimes – a little easier.

Keep in mind that this is a juvenile Cooper’s hawk and an adult sharp shinned hawk. But, note the shape of the head; the relative lengths of the neck; the position of the eyes. Some of the other differences you see here may be related as much to differences in maturity as much as to real differences between the two, but I think the differences are pretty striking when someone has the luxury of seeing them for a few minutes as opposed to passing through overhead in flight. The sharp shinned hawk seems to go for the small song birds. The Cooper’s seems to prefer doves, and this is a difference that has been noted by others as well.

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk
Sharp Shinned Hawk

One thing is for sure: the “urban forest” of Albuquerque, along with the bird feeders placed by residents, make an attractive environment for hawks. I am thrilled to know I have had two different kinds of hawks visit me. Just one more thing I love about living in Albuquerque!

Cooper’s Hawk

Correction 10/08/2015: This is a Sharp Shinned Hawk and Not a Cooper’s Hawk!

Young Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk is an accipiter that has adapted to life in what has been termed “the urban forest” of the northeast part of Albuquerque. Here, in a limited part of the city, their concentration is as great as in any of the “natural” habitats. What you see in this image is the type of environment in which you might see them.

Cooper's Hawk
Young Cooper’s Hawk

Those of you who have been regular readers here know of a rather prolonged encounter I had in August of 2014 with a young Cooper’s hawk. I had seen them passing through the yard sporadically before and after then, but I really became interested in them at that time. I kept waiting for another prolonged, intense encounter with one of these beautiful and impressive birds. A pair was known through the summer to have set up housekeeping at the arroyo at the end of the street, so I thought that sooner or later a young one might appear.

You can’t plan these things. This afternoon I was rushing around, trying to get some place on time. I had everything ready to go, and glanced out. Well, you can’t just ignore these wonderful things – any wonderful things – when they drop in, no matter how unexpected at the time. I hurriedly changed lenses, and made a few images.

I expect – perhaps I should say hope – to see more of this bird in the coming months.

Cooper’s Hawk at the Restaurant

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk, at “The Restaurant”

Cooper’s hawks visit frequently. I have seen one in the yard each day for the past week. I like to see the hawks. They are magnificent birds. But, I don’t want my little birds to be a daily meal. I think it is time for me to take down these bird feeders for the little birds for a bit, until this Cooper’s Hawk stops coming by every afternoon.

Cooper's hawk
Cooper’s Hawk, hanging out waiting for an easy dinner

This part of Albuquerque, with its “urban forests,” is home to a very dense population of Cooper’s hawks – as dense as in any of their natural habitats. They are very successful in this urban environment, partly because of people like me who attract their meals for them. The hawks have to eat, too, but I don’t have to make it too easy for them.

Spot the Hawk

Cooper's hawk

The Hawk of Albuquerque’s “Urban Forests”

Hawk, hanging out in the pine tree outside my kitchen window – can you spot it?
(This could make a jig saw puzzle. 😉 )

Cooper's hawk
Cooper’s Hawk, hanging out in the pine tree outside my kitchen window, waiting for dinner to arrive.

As I have said here before, the density of the Cooper’s hawk in the “urban forests” of Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights is thought to be as high as in any of this hawk’s “natural environments.” It has adapted well to life with humans. After all, we put out birdseed and other food for the little birds, and the hawks seem to appreciate our efforts and to thrive.

This is a large pine tree in my back yard, and I know that white-winged doves and scrub jays have had nests in that tree over the years. I always look forward to the fledgling jays (later in the year), and I am not overjoyed that the hawk is now using this as a hiding spot to wait for prey.

I was washing dishes when I caught sight of the hawk napping in the tree. It did not seem to mind being photographed as long as I was in the kitchen, but it flew when I went out.

Given the frequency with which I am seeing hawks in my yard this year, I expect other photographic opportunities for them. I’m not so sure about little fledglings of other birds later on, though…

This hawk is more mature than the one photographed in August and whose images I posted a few days ago. That was a juvenile Cooper’s. I do not know that this is the same hawk, just more mature and with plumage reflecting that. As many hawks as are known to be in this area, it could be a different hawk, of course. But, I want to think it is the same hawk that has been hanging around. 🙂

Although it is a bird of prey, the Cooper’s hawk is a beautiful bird of which I have become quite fond.

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