Hawk attacks seem more common lately. Austin's tree canopy may have something to do with it.
Hawks in Austin are currently nesting and caring for their young until they're old enough to flee the nest. And these protective parents fear you might be a threat.
This might explain why there have been quite a few local hawk attacks in the news and on social media lately. For example, KUT’s Digital Editor Stephanie Federico went viral on TikTok a few weeks ago for a video of a hawk attacking her in North Central Austin.
While on a walk through her neighborhood, she spotted a pair of hawks high up in a tree. Federico pulled out her phone to film the majestic creatures. Then, one of the birds swooped down and scratched her on the head.
“I was just shaken and then just like in a total state of shock, but also laughing at the same time because it was bizarre,” she said.
It turned out Federico wasn't the only one in her neighborhood to experience an attack. She later heard through her landlord that nearby resident Joshua Moore had just had a similar hawk encounter, though his injuries were more prominent.
“He pecked me twice on the head, but it was very clear he was trying to go for my eye,” Moore said. “There were claw marks around my eyes, and one of my eyes got bruised in the corner.”
In one South Austin neighborhood, hawk attacks have caused the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail service.
According to Travis Audubon, a nonprofit that helps conserve bird habitats, hawks this time of year have fledglings. These young birds are old enough to go out into the wild on their own but still stay in the nest with their parents. Executive Director Nicole Netherton said hawks are particularly protective of their young, which is why they attack.
Netherton has a theory about why hawk attacks seem more common in Austin this year: The severe winter weather the area had in February damaged trees, reducing the amount of hawk-nesting real estate.
"It's possible that because we have had such severe winter storms the past several years, they are using nesting sites that are a little less protected,” she said. “Just because so much of our tree canopy has been affected by the recent ice storm, for example."
This could mean hawks can't hide their nests as easily, so they feel more vulnerable.
Netherton said it's important to remember that Austinites and hawks share the same space.
“They were here before we were," she said. "[A hawk] may think that you’re trying to harm it. I know you’re not, but it's an important thing to remember that we are also in their space.”