A red-tailed hawk has taken up residence across the street in a bare tree not far from where the sharp-shinned hawk perched for a while. The differences between the hawks are many. The small sharp-shinned hawk hunts forest birds. It flies like a tiny fighter plane (think Will Smith and the alien in Independence Day when they fought in the canyon). When I lived in the city, I had a fence covered with Japanese honeysuckle around my patio with an arch at the end. A sharp-shinned hawk would often hunt in my backyard; he would fly over the fence once and frighten all the house sparrows into the tangle of honeysuckle vines. Then he would fly at the vines, feet first, touch the vines and immediately fly over the fence and catch what was frightened enough to fly out the other side. He would take his prey and sit on the arbor to eat. We had a spotting scope set up and focused on the arbor because he did this regularly. He would take his time eating, feathers flying. About the time the hawk amazed me with this process for the first time, I read a column in the local paper written by Scott Shalaway. Someone had written him that there was a hawk feeding on the birds at her birdfeeder and what could she do to discourage it. Scott , wise to the ways of nature, said “well, you just fed another bird”. Birdfeeders by nature attract large numbers of birds, predators are attracted to them like we are to the grocery store. You go where the food is.
On the other hand, the red-tail is more like a bomber; they usually hunt in open land, so the birds of the forest are not frightened from the feeder when they perch nearby. I assume the red-tail is hunting rodents in the tangle of partially cleared land across the road. My husband and I have been blessed to see many birds of prey in our travels. In Washington and Oregon bald eagles are plentiful. In Florida, red-shouldered hawks dot the skies.