Monday, January 15, 2007

Hawk Kills Dove

Not a remarkable event, but it happened in my back yard, and it was witnessed by my eight-year-old daughter just as I'm getting her into bird watching.

She's doing a project at school on the goldfinch, so we bought a new hanging feeder containing nyger seed - which attracts the breed especially - to go with the suet holder that brings us woodpeckers, and the green, metal, house-shaped feeder that lures nuthatches, chickadees and titmice, but is usually covered with house-sparrows and flying death-wish squirrels (they can't climb on to it, so they hurl themselves at it from above to dislodge seed on to the ground). This weekend we were watching some low-level garden activity, and when I left her to go to the kitchen, there were just a dark-eyed junco and three mourning doves on the lawn, pecking away in that docile way that makes them possibly the least interesting bird in the world to watch.

A minute later she came running through, distraught and in tears. "A hawk came and ate one of the birds!" My first reaction was "Cool!" and I ran through to the window to see if it was still around. A couple of years ago a sharp-shinned hawk came down and frightened an American Robin into flying against the living room window. When I looked out past the circle of feathers left on the pane, there was the hawk sitting below, its talons in the dead bird, looking around furtively before it flew off.

This time there were just a few feathers where the dove had been, and a grey squirrel peeking out of the log pile where it had scarpered for cover. After a hug and some consoling words, I managed to get my daughter to describe what she had seen. It sounded like a red-tailed hawk. I persuaded her that, for a novice birdwatcher, she'd witnessed something pretty special, and that such deaths were just a part of nature. By the next day she was breezily telling everyone about it. I only wish I'd hung around for another minute and seen it myself.


Kenneth said...

Top class articles on music reviews and footballing tales gives way to musings on birds and kids. I can't wait for the cooking tips.

Ian said...

Cooking Tip: Take one sarcy Irishman named Kenneth, a barrel of Guinness, then hold Kenneth's head down in the barrel of Guinness until the necessary respect has been restored. Or until the barrel is empty, whichever comes first.

Ian said...

Another killing on Sunday - it's becoming such a regular hawk lunch spot that I'm half expecting Dick Cheney to turn up in our garden chewing on a white-throated sparrow ("Goddam pacifist birds!"). On Sunday a sharp-shinned hawk sat for 20 minutes on our fence, having poached a downy woodpecker from the suet. The captured bird was still squawking its last cries beneath the claw, but its indifferent killer was too busy surveying the neighbourhood to care. My daughter was merely curious this time, and if anything I was the one in distress. The downy woodpecker is such an innocent bird - it pecks away at the suet and lets you walk almost right up to it to take a look. Clearly it needs to adapt.