Wild hawk spotted devouring squirrel on Quad

The bird was either a red-tailed hawk or a female Cooper’s Hawk, as identified by chemistry teacher Roxie Allen and biology teacher Paula Angus.

Claire Furse, Executive Editor of Content

As senior Riya Chakraborty settled into a sunny spot on the Quad, she envisioned spending her free period studying peacefully, listening to the “La La Land” movie soundtrack, and relaxing. What Chakraborty did not expect was to see a massive red-tailed hawk rapidly accelerate into a dive, slaughter an innocent squirrel on a tree branch, and violently nail its prey to the ground just feet away from her chair.

Like Chakraborty, senior Will Marx was only steps away from this dramatic depiction of the food chain.

“We heard a ton of noise in the tree and looked up to see a squirrel hanging by its front legs on the branch,” senior Will Marx said. “The hawk wrapped its talons around the back legs of the squirrel and dragged it down to the Quad, slamming the squirrel on the ground. It was crazy.”

As both animals hit the grass, everyone on the Quad rushed over to see what had happened. For several minutes, the hawk simply stood on top of its fresh kill, gazing patiently through glassy golden eyes at the ring of awestruck seniors gathered around it.

The hawk may not have been impressed, but for many students, it was their first chance to see a powerful bird of prey up-close. Some even mistook the wild animal for a pet.

“Who’s hawk is that?” asked freshman William Harris excitedly, as the raptor ripped out a shred of squirrel meat and ate it.

Speculations began as to whether it was a bald eagle, a peregrine falcon, or some kind of vulture. Chemistry teacher Roxie Allen and others informed some of the growing crowd that it was a red-tailed hawk, while biology teacher Paula Angus claims it was a female Cooper’s hawk.

Most observers were not concerned at all by the thought of such a powerful predator soaring around school.

“I’m not freaked out by it. As long as no one bothers them, the hawks aren’t going to do anything,” senior Daily Desenberg said. “They have as much of a right to be here as anyone else.”

As the hawk tore into the dead squirrel’s flesh and continued its feast, some students expressed disgust and moved on. Other students and faculty watched mesmerized for 30 minutes, fascinated by the hawk’s wild beauty and raw power.

“It was one of those weird times where something is gross but also really interesting, so you can’t take your eyes away,” Marx said.

As more and more intrigued Mavericks clustered around the hawk, it started to get skittish and briefly flew to another corner of the Quad, bringing along the hard-won squirrel which dangled limply from the hawk’s sharp yellow talons.

“It was very cool because we don’t get to see wildlife in its natural state every day, living in such an urban environment,” Chakraborty said.  

Many students were willing to trade a study session or a free period for the chance to watch an apex predator in action, a rare glimpse of Houston’s hidden wilderness.