A happy ending for a
family of Cooper’s Hawks

Intervention leads to the protection of hawks nesting in Saint-Laurent Cemetery

By Doris Potter

July 29, 2021

In April, I was excited to find that Cooper’s Hawks were nesting in the Saint-Laurent Cemetery for the second year in a row. This time they chose a different tree and I watched the male work diligently on the nest over a two-week period. It was interesting to watch him break off small branches to build the nest and then later, pull off pieces of bark to use to line it.

male Cooper’s Hawk gathering twigs for nest

Male Cooper’s Hawk gathering twigs for nest

I was able to get some good photographs of the parent hawks, who kindly perched on lower branches during this time. Once the nest was finished, the female spent almost all her time on it and finally, in early June, I was able to see the first fluffy white head of a nestling!

Mother Cooper’s Hawk with nestling

Mother Cooper’s Hawk with nestling

Around that time, however, a number of things happened that caused me to fear for the safety of the baby hawks. Trees were being sprayed for caterpillar control and, most alarming, I noticed red ribbons on each of two trees flanking the “hawk tree.” This meant that those trees were slated for felling. It became an urgent issue because they could be cut down at any time, and they were so close that their branches overlapped with those of the hawk’s tree. Therefore, the felling of them, with the big trucks, commotion and loud noises, could make the parents abandon the nest.

I immediately wrote a letter to the cemetery administration explaining the location of the nest and my concerns. I received no reply for several days, so I sent a follow-up letter with photos of the occupied nest and asked a good friend, Georges Dupras, to write as well. Georges went one step further and copied the mayor of Saint-Laurent, Alan DeSousa.

Cooper’s Hawk by nest

Cooper’s Hawk by nest

Regrettably, neither my letters nor Georges’ received a reply from the cemetery. Thankfully Mayor DeSousa assigned the issue to a city planning advisor, Jacinthe Daprato, for action.

portrait of a young Cooper’s Hawk

Portrait of a young Cooper’s Hawk

In the meantime, I discovered that there were five nestlings! This information and more details were passed on to Ms. Daprato, and I was very pleased to learn on July 5 that the cemetery had been instructed by the city to leave all trees standing until mid-August, to protect these birds.

Her reply to me (translated from the French) stated, in part: “After discussions with the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, and under the law on the conservation and development of wildlife, the nest must be protected until the young can fly and leave the nest.”

I am happy to report that all five young hawks are now adult size and flying well. However, they sometimes still rely on their parents for food and come back to the nest for feeding.

With so much bad news lately regarding birds and butterflies losing their habitats on the island of Montreal, I am pleased that at least these birds have been allowed to raise their family successfully. Thanks go to Mayor DeSousa in particular, for caring enough to bring this saga to a happy conclusion.

three young Cooper’s Hawks

Three young Cooper’s Hawks

Feature image: Young Cooper’s Hawk branching
Images: Doris Potter

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Doris Potter

“There are two main things which are important to me – beauty and compassion. As a photographer, I try to capture and portray the incredible beauty of Nature. As an animal rights advocate, I am a vegan and devote time to helping animals where I can. The key is to treat all lifeforms with respect.” – Doris Potter

There are 8 comments

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  1. Georges Dupras

    Those of us who take conservation issues beyond the assigning of blame appreciate your follow-up in this matter. Persistence pays off and so does your example.
    Tree felling and bridge painting usually mean bad news for birds nesting within them. True conservation and respect for all is the benchmark of a progressive society.
    We are also fortunate to have Alan Desousa as a mayor dedicated to going that extra step in the interest of biodiversity and the citizens of Saint-Laurent. I’ll stop now as I’m beginning to sound like a campaign manager.

  2. Nelson

    A happy feelgood story thanks to and Doris and friend George. Nice to see a mayor who actually listens to his residents and acts on their concerns. Proud to have Doris as my sister.

  3. Diane Marcotte

    It is heartening to see that Doris Potter, Georges Dupras, and Mayor Alan DeSousa were instrumental in bringing about a satisfactory ending to this story. It could have so easily ended in tragedy. It just goes to show that caring, compassionate people can, with patience and persistence, bring about the desired result – in spite of resistance by uncaring individuals.

    The photographs of photographer/artist Doris Potter are outstanding and bring this saga to life. Five new lives can now progress as Nature intends.

  4. Blain Martin

    It really is nice to have some good news these days! Your story and your incredible photos of the hawks show us that we should all be more proactive in protecting the wildlife around us. So few of us have seen these magnificent hawks “up-close” before but, thanks to you, we see them now and we’re inspired by your dedication and commitment to keeping them safe until they can fend for themselves. Thank you for what you do and thanks too to Georges Dupras, Alan Desousa, and Ms. Daprato for their involvement in bringing this story to a happy ending.

  5. M. Goldberg

    What a privilege it is to see Cooper Hawks in our city up close and personal and to learn more about their nesting habits. I love the activists who know our environment so well and alert all of us to ways we can become involved in saving endangered species. In my case, living near Drew Park in The Hank, I have been concerned at the massive overgrowth of weeds killing off perennials . It isn’t much, but I have been successful in putting my hands to work to save the plants we love–especially echinacea and phlox–and was so heartened last week to see the city crew close out the month of July with a final visit for the month (maybe the only one all month?) to go after the four foot tall invaders that me and my neighbour did not have the strength to polish off.

  6. Jean Le Marquand

    A lovely, heart-warming story in troubled times! This combined effort to save nesting
    baby Cooper’s Hawks shows the power in words…and the dedication of sometimes only a
    few people. And what a wonderful example to set for others who mistakenly think that
    they are powerless to change anything.

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