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Akom

Small blue, brown and white hawk in Tulsa

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Hi,

First of all let me apologize for not snapping a picture of this amazing bird.  My wife and I feed birds on the side of our driveway, in front of our house to provide bird and squirrel watching entertainment for us and our three indoor cats.  This morning we were watching groups of sparrows feeding on seed and bread crumbs when all of a sudden a small hawk slammed into a small sparrow and slid across our driveway with it in its talons.  The hawk was about the size of a pigeon and seemed small for a hawk looking bird. It could have been an adolescent.  The colors of this hawk were very striking, bright brown on its wings, blue on its head and other accent areas, and its neck had wide white with smaller black vertical stripes around it.  We have iBird pro on our iPads but could not find a bird resembling it. 
It was shocking to witness a bird killing another bird.  When we knocked on the window in an attempt to have it release the sparrow, it few off with the sparrow in its talons.

I wish I had gotten its picture to help in identifying it. Thank you.

Edited by Akom
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Agreed on kestrel... I haven't studied their diet to know how common it is for them to go after birds...  I've never witnessed it. I usually see them either perched on a wire or hovering over a field looking for large bugs or rodents...
Just checked and all about birds says they'll go for small songbirds.
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/lifehistory#food

Any idea what kind of sparrow? If it was a house sparrow, I wouldn't be very sad for it.

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The white patch with black vertical stripes beside it makes me think it's an American Kestrel too.  They used to be called "sparrowhawks", but they're falcons, and the ornithologists rightly took "hawk" out of all of our falcons' names.

I've never seen a kestrel catch anything, even a grasshopper, though.  Sounds like quite an experience.

By the way the great majority of birds, including all birds of prey, are full-grown when they can fly.  So if you see one that looks small for some reason, it's probably not because it's young.

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I maintain a kestrel camera and they bring home anything from voles and birds to moths and worms. I've never personally seen them catch small birds but I do know they freak out the feeder birds when they come swooping in! (Once had a chick attempt to swallow an entire tail with the feathers 😛 )

I agree, that does sound like a kestrel. The only other thing would be merlin.

Edited by Melierax

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You are all absolutely correct!  I looked at a picture of the kestrel and that is what we saw slam into, yes, a house sparrow.  I know we have hundreds of those little sparrows around but it was a shock to see that happen so violently during their morning feeding.  My wife and I both saw the kestrel slide across our driveway with the sparrow in his talons.  Then he started pecking at it like he was going to tear it apart right in front of us.  That’s when I knocked on the window and he flew off with the sparrow in his talons.

Thank you all so much for the identification.  What an interesting experience.

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I asked about the house sparrow because many birders don't exactly like them. They're not native and they will kick other birds' eggs (and chicks I believe) out of a nest to take a nest over. Many people just enjoy seeing birds so seeing any of them get hurt is sad... I just feel a little less sad about those ones.
Glad you got to solve it... and as shocking and upsetting as it might be, it's still sort of fascinating to see that behavior.

Keep coming back... lots of good birds out there. 🙂

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8 hours ago, Akom said:

It was shocking to witness a bird killing another bird.

Welcome to Whatbird.

Many species specialize in hunting other birds.  Your kestrel is a small falcon, a group noted for including birds in their diet.  You might keep an eye out for Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks, two members of the Accipiter family that are known for targeting feeder birds.  Larger raptors will go after doves and pigeons, and ducks and other waterfowl.

I can understand seeing this behavior at a backyard feeder for the first time may be disturbing.  It probably doesn't help to know that it's always been happening away from your feeders.  Still, it isn't unusual for this to happen.  (Indeed, some birders have a preference for raptors, and put out feeders to attract 'bait'.)  If you'd like to minimize it, try to locate your feeders between trees so the predators don't have a clear attack path.  

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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