Sunday, January 13, 2013

Don’t Cry over Spilled Squirrel

Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah can be a surprisingly great place for birds. It’s a lovely urban oasis that can attract a variety of birds, especially migrating songbirds and numerous resident Carolina Wrens, American Robins, and Brown Thrashers. But one unexpected treat about Forsyth Park is that it has attracted a bevy of raptors. We have gotten great looks at Cooper’s Hawk, Mississippi Kite, and Red-Tailed Hawk as they have come down to the relatively low and easily accessible trees in this urban patch of green.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk w/ squirrel in talon

Back in October of last year, we had quite an exciting encounter with a young Red-Tailed Hawk. While strolling along one of the paths, we caught a glimpse of a juvenile Red-Tailed up in a tree with what appeared to be a juicy little morsel in his talons. He seemed very happy to have caught this little squirrel until the worst thing in the world happened… He dropped it. The young Red-Tailed immediately got very upset and was not afraid to show it.

He dropped his squirrel and is NOT happy about it!

Calling out to mom in the branch above, upset about his spilled squirrel

He cried out immediately and started to fluff up in distress. You could just hear and see the agony that took him over as he opened his wings and gave aching calls. At first we thought he was just crying to cry out of anger. But then we noticed that either Mama hawk was just over a few branches, and the young guy was facing his parent shrieking away as if to say in an ever so whiny voice, “MoooOOOmmmmm!!! I dropped my squirrel! Wah, wah… I dropped my squirrel!” It was like watching a little kid who was just handed an ice cream cone, and upon first like, the ice cream rolls off to splat on the floor.


Mama hawk did not look amused, and she eventually flew away. Little slugger, on the other hand, was still a bit upset for a while. He looked perplexed and even sad at times. He stared down at the squirrel on the cool concrete ground with a sense of loss. Well, maybe it was not that dramatic, but it sure felt like it. And the squirrel… Well, it also looked very pitiful as it just laid dead on the sidewalk.

Looking longingly at his dropped catch (see below)

RIP, squirrel

What was another great thing about this experience, other than just the sheer awesomeness of it all, was that civilians also got in on the action. Folks always look at us curiously as we bird, as I’m sure you birders are all used to. But when you do it in an urban park, you sometimes get even more crazy looks. And sometimes it’s hard to explain the excitement when it’s something super tiny and difficult to find in a tall tree, like a warbler, or if it’s something outwardly unexciting to look at, like a brownish bird like a Swainson’s Thrush.

"Why did this happen to ME?!?!"

But to be able to point out that you’re looking at a hawk, and to be able to say that it’s a young one that has just dropped it’s squirrel meal, and to see it fluff up and flap its wings is a whole other thing. People got excited! They took pictures! They were sharing the news with other passers by! It was a really exciting moment for these Hipster Birders to be able to connect with laypeople, even if for just a short while.

Finally coming to terms with his lost meal.

As for the hawk, he’ll live to catch another squirrel. And eventually I’m sure he’ll hone in on his skills and not drop them (that often). And as for the people, I hope they’ll learn to look up a little more often and appreciate the birds a little bit more.


  1. He didn't go down an pick it up!? Spoiled child...

    Just remember, y'all were looking at the hawk and its quarry BEFORE it was cool.

    I really enjoyed this post. NIce to hear from y'all again.

    1. Haha! Yes, he did seem like a spoiled child! And being hipsters, we do try to stay ahead of the game ;-)

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for sticking with us!

  2. Funny captions to this story and great photos -- enjoyed it! But seriously though, I can't believe he didn't just drop down and get it. The mother probably left out of embarrassment at her stupid offspring....

    I look forward to birding the park when we're down there in April. Thanks for pointing out that it's a good spot. ~Kim

    1. Thanks, Kim! Yeah, I'm not sure why he didn't just swoop down and pick it up. Perhaps because there were too many people around.

      I'm glad you're going to come down to the area. There's lots of great birding spots around! Let me know if you need any other suggestions!

    2. I just discovered your reply, Maureen...I always forget to check back on my comments, duh.

      Yes, I'd love some suggestions for places to bird when we're down there! We're not so much into shorebirds, so wouldn't be too interested in beach areas. But marshes, woodlands, parks, etc. would be great. What about Bonaventure Cemetery? Is that good for birding? We're hoping to go to the Savannah NWR too. Thanks for any ideas you can send my way. (Email would be best so I don't miss your reply.) ~Kim

  3. Great story! And I totally agree - getting people excited about seeing something is such a good feeling!

    1. Thanks, Kelli! Indeed it is a good feeling. That's why you do what you do! =)