Yesterday around supper time, we saw a shocking, fascinating, gritty bit of nature.
All of a sudden, we heard and saw a lightning fast rustle of feathers and chaos in our yard. Turns out a hawk had grabbed a pigeon in our yard. For some context, this is a residential area--people generally have a half acre to an acre here. But I'm bordered by houses, not natural areas. We've NEVER seen a hawk anywhere near our land before.
There were about four crows nearby when the hawk took the pigeon. They were in HOT PURSUIT immediately... probably only a few feet behind the hawk. He landed and stood on his prey to hold it down. The crows sat in a nearby tree and yelled repeatedly at the hawk! Then three seagulls started circling overhead and yelling, too! I have no idea what was going on, but those other birds sure sounded mad. Do they have a community of sorts? Do they try to warn and protect other species? Do they run off predators as a group? I wish I knew what was actually happening.
Finally, the other birds took off, and we humans backed off as well, and the hawk started pecking at its prey. I'll admit, I was both fascinated and a little horrified, as there has been a family/group of pigeons that visits every day, so this was one of "our" pigeons. Eventually, the hawk flew just a few feet off the ground, but pretty fast, with its prey still in its talons and presumably went somewhere more private to finish its dinner.
Then another pigeon did a couple of slow circles above the spot the other one was killed.
We try to let wildlife share our land here. This was a surprise though. We've never had anything quite like this.
Best we can figure out by the bird book, it was probably a Cooper's Hawk. Beautiful bird.
They are beautiful birds! As a chicken keeper, I am wary of them, though.
I think the seagulls were waiting for leftovers. The crows, though - crows often harass hawks. I've heard it's because they are protecting their young, but your crows seemed to be doing it (1) just on principle? (2) out of solidarity with the pigeon? or (likely) (3) because the hawk was messing with their territory.
The crow stories give me encouragement, though, because we have crows around here that scream as a group from time to time. I'm hoping they're yelling at one of our local hawks to go hunt a little further away.
This is nature at both its finest and its ugliest depending on your point of view. In *many* ways, nature is all about cooperative living and the focus on some of "survival of the fittest" is short-sighted as I think "luckiest" is often more accurate. Hiedi's pigeon friend was in the wrong place at the wrong time and lost this round. The predators have an important role of removing old or injured members of a group, or sometimes the young and foolish members, but both will ultimately make for a stronger population of pigeons, and keep the population in balance with the available food.
A story from my property - the robins were getting bolder, ignoring humans and stealing *all* the fruit, fledging 3 clutches/year, and being pests out of balance with the environment. An owl moved in and decided that baby robin tasted good and started stealing the young out of nests and grabbing any adults that weren't wary enough. It upset my neighbor to see the baby robins taken like that, but I noticed within 2 months the robins were much better at staying under cover, took *much* more care in finding safe places for their nests, and the over-all population was more in balance. Yes, if a robin spots the owl perching, it carries on like there's no tomorrow, but so long as the robins are cautious, the owl leaves them alone now - he's moved on to the over-populated grey squirrel's who now think they own the place!
Humans are not the only ones who have "neighborhood watch programs"!
Crows are fledging and the young will spend at least a couple of weeks on the ground, learning how to fly as their tail feathers grow out; same with gull babies. The attack on the hawk was to drive this threat from their territory, so their families are safe.
As mentioned, there is an element of weeding out the the less able: unwary, less cautious, etc., who frankly, would have passed their inattention on to their own young - not a good trait for survival in any species. So I consider this a bit of "pruning" the less hardy...and that it likely "improves" the genetics, long term - adapt or die. Perhaps a bit harsh, for some, but Mother Nature IS a hard taskmistress!
On the lighter side, it is so cool to watch interactions like this play out; to see animals/birds cross species lines, joining together for the greater good; protecting their communities; "running off" the "bad element in the area. Humans like to think they are superior, that we are the only ones with a concept of family, community, caring for others, or joining together for the greater good.
On the flip side, to see the risks a bird, desperate for food, will risk crossing territory/boundary lines, to secure food for themselves and their offspring - equally amazing and "human-like".
To see that birds/animals appear to "grieve" for lost loved ones...all these actions, that appear to come from an emotional place, is often surprising for us "two-legged" creatures. And yet, is it really so remarkable?
This is one of the reasons permaculture and co-habitation is so critical - learning that ALL creatures have families and feelings; territories and boundaries; the ability to work together on an inter species level.
Rather than automatically removing or killing wildlife when conflict occurs, we need to look to how we establish and define our territories and boundaries. Create predator proof enclosures, fencing, and safeguards. Electric fencing as a deterrent is an expensive investment, but it WILL pay for itself, over time; as will ALL efforts to safeguard our gardens, crops and live stock.
Please, take this encounter to consider if there is more you could do, or a better way to limit your own human/wildlife conflict. Consider being proactive, rather than reactive. Consider that we ALL share this planet, and all have rights and entitlements...ask yourself "How can I do better"?
Some food for thought.
Lorinne Anderson: Specializing in sick, injured, orphaned and problem wildlife for over 20 years.