Onlookers gathered near the ramped entrance to the Rec Center last Wednesday afternoon to witness the mesmerizing spectacle of a hawk capturing a freshly caught gray squirrel. The magnificent avian raptor, a fully grown female red-tailed hawk, stood proudly over her kill as passing students snapped pictures of the encounter between predator and prey.
As quickly as students could spot the carnage, smartphones were wrestled from pockets to document the grim encounter. A hurried student said this to her impatient friend as they stopped to watch:“I don’t care if we are late. Just tell [the professor] we were watching a hawk eat a squirrel.”
The red-tailed hawk is a native bird of prey to Ohio and can be seen soaring high overhead. Unlike other birds of prey that remain stationary as they wait for their next meal, the red-tailed hawk floats on the lofty currents of wind and uses its acute sense of sight and quick aerial reflexes to target its next victim.
The sighting of the red-tailed hawk feeding on campus was a stark indication of the bird’s aggressive behavior regarding meals and territory. It clearly displayed a willingness to enter a potentially threatening environment for the sake of a kill.
For those with an interest in bird of prey, it should be noted that Northeast Ohio is seeing a resurgence in the health of these animals. Many birds of prey, including the majestic bald eagle, have returned after many decades to breed in the Cuyahoga National Valley park system. The reduction in deadly pesticides and ecological awareness of the birds’ habitats has contributed to them returning to the area.