Predatory birds like hawks are always scarce — much less numerous than their prey species — and they often move through an area quickly and stealthily. To us, spotting a raptor is fun, but to birds like doves and sparrows, it is a matter of life or death. They will almost always find a bird of prey before we do, so if we can learn to recognize the signs that they’ve spotted one, it can help us see more raptors.
Anyone who has a bird feeder will learn the sounds of a raptor attack: the bustling “conversation” of birds at the feeder suddenly switches to a flurry of wings and a few urgent-sounding calls from chickadees and finches, then silence. It’s time to scan for an accipiter. More distant hawks can be revealed by the glances of birds such as doves or waterfowl.