Attacking Red-tailed Hawk
Connecticut Audubon Society receives thousands of calls and emails (and now tweets!) each year from Connecticut residents on a variety of topics relating to birds and the environment. These can include birds attacking windows, injured birds, questions about nests or fledglings seemingly without a mother, a fox or coyote being seen in a yard, and so forth. We get back to each inquiry as best we can. Sometimes we receive information that requires more than just a quick reply.
On Friday, I visited a private residence in Weston to see a raptor pair that had been attacking people. Every time the homeowners went out their door, they would be attacked and even literally hit by the birds. One bird struck a woman in the head and drew blood! They told us the raptors had a nest in their yard, and this made sense, as the birds would be defending it. However, this was beyond the call of parental duty, and a dangerous and unsustainable situation. We were thinking this could be a pair of Northern Goshawks. They are known to attack humans in the manner described. The area was relatively good habitat for them, and some have bred nearby in recent years.
It turns out it was the much more common Red-tailed Hawk. When I arrived, a young bird near fledgling stage was sitting on the nest. The parents were away and things were calm. In the time it took me to go back to the car to get my camera mom had returned. She was, well, not pleased that I had come to check things out. After surviving a couple of her attacks, I readied myself and my camera, taking this video as she descended upon me.
I had to hold the camera up but focus on her, not shooting, because otherwise she might have hit me. Look how fast she moves! Even in slow motion, the speed is amazing. If I did not stay low and then duck that would have hurt. After my visit, we sent along the information to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as they will visit and see what can be done. It is likely the young bird will soon leave the nest completely and all of this will be over. Birds are always a priority to us, but human safety is paramount.