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City hawks flock to feeders to find prey

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Bustling cities like Chicago are not usually known for their wildlife, but Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) and sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) have been establishing populations in the city. In Chicago, researchers say, they’re drawn to backyard bird feeders — or at least, they’re drawn to prey on the birds that feed at them. “People have seen hawks in urban areas a lot for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Jennifer McCabe, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the recent study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “People haven’t looked at what’s allowing them to colonize or stay there.” In the study, a research team took advantage of a citizen science dataset, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, to determine the extent to which hawks were flocking to feeders and their reasons for doing so, including food availability. The citizen scientists who were involved followed a protocol, recording birds that showed up at their feeders and taking note of how long they were watching. McCabe and her colleagues originally thought the hawks would be driven by tree cover in urban and suburban areas. In past research in Europe, afforestation in suburban and [...]

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