No, they won’t eat corn

Coopers hawk (photo by Chuck Tague)
Cooper’s hawk (photo by Chuck Tague)

An animal-lover friend of mine began to feed the birds and was shocked when a Cooper’s hawk killed a mourning dove at her feeder.  My friend is a vegetarian and wanted to know if she could train the Cooper’s hawk not to eat meat either.  “If I put out more corn, will he eat the corn and not the doves?”

“No,” I said, “he will not eat corn.  He’s a carnivore.  That’s just how it is.”

Because humans are omnivores and we grow our own food, we find it hard to imagine the lives of creatures who must hunt to live.  If a Cooper’s hawk is not an efficient hunter — if he does not kill birds — he will die.  It would be cruel to the hawk if it could not hunt.

But what about the prey species?  Is it cruel to them that they are hunted?

There is a beautiful poem by James Dickey in which he describes the heaven where wild animals go.  Called The Heaven of Animals he describes predators in this heaven crouched on the limbs of trees and writes,

“And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance
Fulfilling themselves without pain”

The universe is structured so that everything is eaten by something — in the grave if not before. What an amazing cycle.

That’s just how it is.


(photo by Chuck Tague. Click here to read the complete poem by James Dickey)

4 thoughts on “No, they won’t eat corn

  1. That’s what’s so wonderful about nature–I just began birding (besides feeding birds in backyard, which I did for years). I had a sharp-shinned hawk swoop down from woods behind my back yard and field behind that and grab a sparrow from my feeder when we had our first snowfall in Gilpin Township. After all, as they say on birding forums and other nature sites–hawks have to eat, too. That’s one way of nature keeping things in balance.
    I thoroughly enjoy your website. Thanks for all the interesting articles, photos, etc.

  2. I have a sharp-shinned hawk that has helped him or herself to quite a few birds at my feeder. The last one was a blue jay. It has slammed a robin into my picture window then took it when it fell below the window. It has also tried to take off with my cat in the front picture window. It scared the cat to death for a short time. She would not come out from the chair for a couple days and did not sit on the window sill for a number of weeks. The bird knocked itself silly and sat on the tree branch outside my window for about ten or so minutes trying to regain it senses. I now see I have a larger hawk hanging around but have not seen it long enough to identify it. I watch my Italian Greyhound quite closely when I let her out. I do not want to let her be hawk food no matter how much I enjoy watching the birds.

  3. Predators – hawks, cats, etc – are normal at feeders but it sounds like your picture window is making it deadly for the birds to escape. If your feeders are close to the window, the birds don’t “see” the glass when they try to flee. They only see a hole (room) to escape into and slam into the window. While stunned they are picked off by the predators. Simply moving the feeders away from your window and further into the yard will significantly reduce window kills and stunned birds. Alternatively you can put “bird tape” on the window so that the birds can see it. There’s a lot of information on how to protect your window and the birds at:

  4. I too feed my birds, I get so caught up in it this time of year, I actualy put the peanuts on the deck railing, fill the suet log, and the sunflower seeds, … run back inside.. grab my coffee, turn around my sewing chair and tell the dogs to sit, as we watch out of the french doors…. it is such a soothing sight. I really need to learn more, and be able to name at site. One of my favs is to watch the blue jays, “weigh” the peanuts, wanting to take the biggest prize home. Thanks for all of your insight Kate.

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