A hawk is seen nesting high up in a tree on Saturday, March 27, 2021, on Clinton and Iowa in River Forest, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

“Heartbreakingly beautiful,” is how science fiction writer Lois McMaster Bujold describes hawks, soaring and free, in one of her novels. Yet these birds of prey, like many wild animals, will do whatever they can to protect their young, which has led to hawk attacks in River Forest over the past few weeks.

The village of River Forest has put up two warning signs on the 800 block of Clinton. Between the signs is a tree with nesting hawks that have attacked passersby.

“Caution. Aggressive nesting hawk ahead in tree,” read the signs. 

“We love our wildlife,” said Village President Cathy Adduci, “but we need to be careful around any type of nesting wild animal because they will protect their young.”

Adduci said she received an email from several residents about the attacking bird and immediately had the village’s public works department make warning signs. Because the signs are made in-house, said Adduci, it was done quickly.

Resident Deb Wolkstein knows all too well about the lengths to which hawks will go to protect their young. Her daughter was attacked twice in one day with hits to her head, and Wolkstein posted photos to a River Forest residents Facebook group warning people to be careful. 

Cara Kuhl, whose family lives on the block, told Wednesday Journal she can see the nest from an upstairs bedroom window. Kuhl said the mother and father hawk have been in that same nest for three years. Last year, there were three fledglings, whom her three-year-old named “Uno,” “Dos,” and “Tres.” 

Kuhl said she’s seen the mother hawk, who the family calls “Alisee,” give hunting lessons to her young. Currently, Kuhl said, they can see at least three eggs in the nest.

“They really are majestic,” said Kuhl, who reported that last year, they had local bird expert Henry Griffin come by and identify them as Red Shouldered hawks.

In an email to Wednesday Journal, Griffin said he visited the nest a few times in June 2020 and photographed the birds. Red-shouldered hawks in the area, he said, is noteworthy.

Sidewalk signs are placed under the tree where a hawk has been nesting on Saturday, March 27, 2021, on Clinton and Iowa in River Forest, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

“What makes the Red-shouldered notable is that they tend to prefer more rural, wooded areas so their nesting in very much suburban River Forest is rather interesting,” Griffin said. “Suburban nesting for this species in the area has become increasingly common in recent years and may indicate a gradual shifting of their range northwards, a recent adaptation to more suburban nesting sites, or most likely a combination of both factors.”

He added that the large trees and proximity to Thatcher Woods have most likely also contributed to the rise in population of the species locally.

“Also worth noting,” Griffin said, “is that these hawks have nested in the general River Forest/Forest Park area in years past, but the nest on the corner of Clinton and Iowa is probably the most obvious one there has been recently so it garners a lot of well-deserved attention by birders, neighbors, and passerby alike.”

“They’re beautiful birds, but right now are territorial and protecting their eggs,” Kuhl posted on Facebook. “The hawks are attacking people from behind and hitting them hard on the back of the head. All this to say, proceed with caution at your own risk. In a few weeks their babies will be here and we can enjoy watching their fledglings learn to fly and hunt. But for now, let’s be safe and keep our distance.”

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