Wednesday, February 09, 2005


2/9/05 -- JOHN BLAKEMAN ANSWERS SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERENT PROBLEM and added since this morning, a CODA.

Last December we worked so hard to bring our redtail pair back to its usual place. And so when I received the letter you are about to read, from Patricia Varner in Troy, NY, I was taken aback. Someone trying to GET RID of a Red-tailed hawk! However I promised to forward her letter to John Blakeman and I did...with a little trepidation.

Below you will find Patricia's letter, and Blakeman's perfect response. Boy do I admire that guy! And I did end up sympathizing with Patricia when I clicked on the URL she provides and saw her beautiful backyard.

Here is my problem. I live outside the City of Troy NY. just NE of Albany and have a backyard garden and habitat along side a river with a variety of wild life in residence. About the end of December 04 I observed a hawk in the trees out back and welcomed it as a visitor. This was the first RT to be seen here but I have had many visits by a shaprshinned hawk which came and went and has returned numerous times but never stayed long. As I observed the RT it has retuned every day and perched in an area of about 500 yards around the garden and remains there from sun up to dusk moving around on ocassion. I have observed it is not interested in the numerous pigeons that come to feed (aprox 31) but is focused on the squirrels and other ground dwellers and has turned what was an active area into one of limited activity. I would not be upset if the RT was a visitor but it seems to be constantly here. I would like to know if there is anything I can do legaly to discourage the RT from being around all the time. I feel cheated as i feed all the wildlife and enjoyed seeing them scamper and play which has ceased with the RT in the trees so close. To get a better idea of the area please go to my webshots page at and see the variety and location I am talking about.
Thanks in advance for your time.


Marie Winn kindly forwarded your email to me. I hope I can be of help.

First, as a professional landscape designer (specializing in native prairies and savannas), I note the quality of your garden. Very nice work.

I wish I had some good news regarding the red-tail. Unfortunately, I do not. As you know, red-tails are protected along with most other birds, so they can't be shot at or trapped. You are certainly free to walk out under the hawk's tree and try to cause it to decide to perch elsewhere. That, of course, could get tiresome, and there's no telling how long it would take for the bird to learn that it's not welcome. In just two or three rousings it might decide to perch and hunt elsewhere. On the other hand, it could easily learn that you won't spend any great part of the day out there and it might come right back an hour after you leave. Red-tails are exceedingly smart hunters. They can be very hard to fool.

You have certainly gone to great lengths to provide food and habitat for the animals you feed, and their dispersal upon the appearance of a red-tailed hawk is certainly not a part of your wildlife feeding plan. But the wild red-tail sees things differently, as only a wild animal can. It sees the cavorting squirrels as very available food sources, sitting on the ground ready for taking. Unless concentrated by human feeding, squirrels in the wild seldom come together on the ground in multiple numbers. In the wild, the red-tail has to pick its prey very carefully. But at your feeding station, the hawk's food has been concentrated. The hawk is just as much a valued wild animal as the squirrels, and it has discovered a new source of food, the congregated squirrels. The laws of nature apply to all animals, not just the ones we personally prefer.

I wish I had a solution or better news, but wild red-tails will do what they are genetically programmed to do, search for and take food. When the snow melts and voles (meadow mice) are more easily seen, the hawk is more likely to spend her time peering out over meadows for these prey animals. Until then, the squirrels are simply very enticing.

I frequently get similar complaints from people whose bird feeders attract Cooper's hawks. They kill song birds at feeders rather profligately. They only eat song birds, and they find cardinals and mourning doves at feeders easy pickings.

Nature is filled with predators. The red-tail is one of them. I wish I were able to solve your problem, but I can't.

My best wishes, nonetheless.


John A. Blakeman

Before I posted this correspondence I asked Patricia Varner if it would be all right to include her letter and her name. She sent the following response, which may serve as a coda to the little drama you have just read.

Hi Marie,
Yes you may use my name and letter either in full or paraphrased and as for a picture you may download anyone you wish from my webshots site. For your information I am trying what he suggested and going out into the garden and the hawk leaves. Today it flew to the other side of the river and perched only to be harrased by a small flock of crows which hang out in the area forcing it to leave the area entirely. I did return several hours later and I just walked to the tree area and it left. I must admit I find this magnificent bird a wonder to see. John also sent me another letter explaining why the hawk was not attacking the pigeons. Will close for now if there is anything else you need from me don't hesitate to ask.
Birdingly Yours,