Hawk attacks causing havoc in San Antonio neighborhood

Red-shouldered hawks protecting nest attacking residents on NE Side

By Adrian Garcia - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - In a quiet community on the city's Northeast Side, residents are having to protect themselves during the day from the reoccurring swoops of hawks in the neighborhood.

Since March, many in the Oakwell Farms neighborhood have had to learn to adapt with a family of red-shouldered hawks that has claimed a large oak tree as its nesting site.

Residents were forced to learn new tactics while walking to the mailbox, which stands less than 50 feet away from the nest.

Rowan Altgete and Janet Penley, who have lived across the street from one another for about 10 years, said they have both been attacked.

"I went to get my mail ... and then I see (the hawk) up in the tree and then all of sudden, (the hawk) comes at me," Penley said.

KSAT anchor Ursula Pari, who lives on the same street as Penley and Altgete, said her daughter and husband have also been attacked by the two hawks.

While Penley was lucky enough to escape the attack, Pari said her neighbor was not so lucky. He was scratched on the face by one of the hawks while walking out to his front yard, which is near the nest and oak tree.

Algete said a hawk scratched him on the top of his head -- drawing a little bit of blood.

"I don't think (the hawks) mean any real harm, other than to say, 'Stay away from my nest and my babies,'" Algete said. "If you got too close to that nest, they expressed their displeasure."

Algete said during the building of the nest, the hawks were fairly quiet -- until recently when people began to notice their aggressiveness.

The nest, which was once home to three eyas (young hawks), has since been knocked down that some residents suspect was due to the recent storms. Nest or not, the parents are still hovering and watching over their young in the area. 

Jessica Alderson, an urban biologist with Texas Parks & Wildlife, talked with KSAT.com and shared some insight on what might be happening in the Oakwell Farms community, and possibly other areas across town.

"This is springtime, so that is when everyone's babies are being born as far as wildlife goes," Alderson said.

Courtesy: Robert Sturgis Dozier, San Antonio

While it may seem like a headache, Alderson said community members should not take matters into their own hands and disturb the nest.

"(The hawks) are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal protection. It actually protects all birds, with the exception of pigeons, house sparrows and European starlings," Alderson said.

TPWD's chapter 64 mimics the federal act, providing protection for nongame birds in Texas.

"That prohibits the public from removing nests, removing eggs, capturing any of these types of bird and doing anything to impact their nesting activities," she said.

Courtesy: Robert Sturgis Dozier, San Antonio

The best course of action, Alderson recommends, is for people to carry an umbrella and/or wear a hat to avoid being attacked by any birds trying to protect its nest.

A silver lining to having predatory birds in any neighborhood is they "keep the rat population down and are important to the ecology of our creeks and rivers," Alderson said.

For residents in the Oakwell Farms community, Alderson said hawks generally only behave aggressively right before their babies leave the nest and for the time it takes for them to learn to fly, which can range anywhere from one to two weeks.

Anyone who might have issues being attacked by birds can reach Texas Parks & Wildlife at 210-688-6444 with their questions or concerns.

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