Monday, January 17, 2011

NATURE'S WAY AT THE BIRD FEEDER: A time to eat. And a time to be eaten.

A mourning dove, possible with an injury, rests under the bird feeder.  Note the closed eye.
  photo by Jonathan Schechter (through the den window)

Look at the world through Darwinian eyes - something I try to do - and you too may be astonished at the diversity of wildlife interactions surrounding us. Winter makes those observations easier to read with the easel of snow being the backdrop.  Throw a bird feeder into the mix and life and death drama reigns.

                         This interaction story is short and sweet -- for a Cooper's hawk.

I noticed a  mourning dove under my feeder. Not feeding. Resting, so it seemed.  One eye closed.  Mourning doves tend to be social birds and usually feed in flocks. For reasons unknown to me this one was out of the norm - - and was about to be out of the gene pool.   Two hours passed and he was recycled.  The plucked feathers and a few splashes of bright red blood told the rest of the story. All evidence pointed to the Cooper's Hawk, a sleek hawk of woodlands that has adapted its ways to the ways of the feeders and is skilled in the high speed pursuit of other birds.  Birds are not bird brains. They learn. They adapt.

Spillage of seed leads song birds to ground gluttony in unnatural gatherings and careless behavior.  And when one bird is slower than the rest  - as this one was - it became dinner.

And that is the way it should be and serves as a reminder that our actions when we intervene in the ways of nature, even actions such as feeding birds we like, will bring other actions: In this case a hawk that swooped in to eat the bird he liked.  And there is nothing wrong with that in the never ending processes of nature, evolution, adaptation and competition. It is not a happy go lucky Walt Disnery World at the bird feeder: It is dinner time.

A spash of blood and plucked out feathers bear witness to the work of a Cooper's hawk that  as an opportunist  fast-flying hunter 'tended' to the resting and exposed dove.  photo by Jonathan Schechter


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had this been a PBS documentary about the Cooper's hawk and it's family, we'd have been rooting for the hawk. Had this been a PBS documentary about the morning dove and it's family, we'd have been rooting for the dove.

In short, thanks for sharing the reality of nature. Yes, nature takes place right in our own back yards... However, most of us miss it. Perhaps while we're perusing the Internet - like I'm doing now.

I think I'll get up and go look out the window.

January 18, 2011 at 8:07 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had this happen just today in my back yard. I opened the back door the hawk looked up at me and grabbed his half eaten mourning dove and flew. I saw it happen once in summer as well. The hawk just ripped off the doves head and dropped it near me and flew off with the rest. Strangely interesting to actually see them prey especially at your bird feeder...literally.

February 1, 2014 at 2:13 PM 

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