Nature’s Adaptation OR Are You Missing Chickens?

Creatures of Habitat and Opportunity. We flock to a favorite Sunday buffet at a popular restaurant. This buffet is so good that customers line up before the doors open. Much like nature seeks opportunity for food. On recent mornings, when some households have noticed within 15 minutes of letting the chickens out of the hen house, a chicken disappears. Nature survives on the ability to find food, and when presented with a steady source, the owls, raptors, and hawks will take advantage of the situation, which comes naturally.

A recent visitor is a Northern Goshawk, Accipiter genilis. Goshawks are large at 21” tall with a 41” wingspan, mostly blue-gray with faint black barring on a white belly, stocky with broad wings and a long tail. They generally aggressively hunt medium-sized birds. They also eat squirrels and rabbits, and in this case, chickens.

Goshawks are found across North America and Eurasia. Goshawks are the largest and most scares of the North American accipiters. The goshawk comes from the Old English word for “goose hawk”, due to their habit of preying on birds. The birds were also once called “cook’s hawk” for their success at snaring meat for the pot.

Northern Goshawks are fierce defenders of their nests. Generally, they are secretive, but will attack humans and other threats, such as owls and hawks, if they approach too close to their nests.

Typically, they do not hang out in populated areas, but rather on the edge of a forest or mixed deciduous trees and conifers. Therefore, chances of them raiding your chicken house in town are low. Although, nature can be unpredictable, especially in search of a tasty buffet. Happy Bird Feeding!

(Kathy and her husband, John, own and operate the Wild Birds Unlimited, located at 111 S. 24th St. West in Billings.)