When you think of birds such as raptors you likely don't picture them in an urban environment.
But Lincoln Park Zoo's experts will tell you that many bird species, including meat-eating ones—also known as raptors—like owls and hawks are adapted to urban settings. And if you know where to spot them within Lincoln Park, you'll likely notice them more; particularly in the fall.
"Pigeons, house sparrows and robins exploit niches within urban ecosystems and are more abundant because of it," says Mason Fidino, coordinator of wildlife management for the zoo. "In some aspects of life these urban adapters may be a bit of an irritation—leaving droppings on your freshly cleaned car or nesting near the window next to your bedroom. However, animals that make these urban birds part of their diet tend to benefit."
Some raptors, he said, now include urban areas in their home ranges because they are either agile enough to catch the abundant urban birds in mid-flight or quick enough to dive bomb unsuspecting prey on the ground.
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Fall, in particular, brings a significant increase in the number of raptor sightings near the Nature Boardwalk at the zoo, officials said.
"Raptors are visual hunters, and prey is easier to see from above without leaves to obscure (their) field of vision," says a recent news release. "This is why you often see raptors on light poles on the freeway or at golf courses; open habitat with a high vantage point is a great location for a raptor to hunt."
Cooper’s hawks are the most common raptor spotted at Nature Boardwalk, Fidino noted. The Cooper’s hawk is a “bird hawk”, known as an accipter, that captures prey from cover or by expertly darting through dense vegetation. Historically seen in mixed deciduous forests and woodlands, these birds are now known to nest in urban areas.
Recently, area veterinarian technician Joel Pond noticed a Cooper’s hawk surrounded by a rather large group of crows, Fidino says.
"The hawk was in the process of finishing its meal of freshly caught pigeon while the crows were trying to be enough of an annoyance to make it leave its hard-earned snack," he says, in a news release.
It's rare to capture a predatory attack on film, he continues, especially in an urban environment.
"In the city we are often disconnected from the fact that predators eat other animals," he says, in the release. "This Coopers hawk reminds us that in urban nature, just like in the forest, it’s often kill or be killed."
The attached graphic photos document the Cooper's hawk during its meal.