Before Coffee: The Season of the Dark Birds

December 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve always had an affinity for the hawk. I’m fond of all the raptors—falcons, eagles, etc.—but hawks have always been a particular fascination.

I work in a big glass box, and hawks live nearby, so I see them perched on the tops of the parking lot lights and some dead trees nearby. Several times, I’ve see one particular hawk (at least, I assume it’s the same one) harried by two tiny birds who seem to think they own the airspace through which the hawk is flying.

The hawk could easily take out both birds. I’ve seen it happen, once, standing at my kitchen sink and something flashed by the window, and I thought someone had run past. I looked out into the back yard, and there it was, some small bird in its talons being torn apart by its fierce, curved beak. Taking its time, an hour spent completely disassembling its breakfast; I went out once it finally flew off, and there was nothing but a few bloody feathers.

So I know what the hawk outside my office window is capable of. Yet it flies on, serene, ignoring the little birds’ attack runs and the occasional feathers they tear off it. (I found one of those feathers—a large one—next to my car one day, and keep it in the dash.)

But now it’s the season of the little, dark birds. They’re massing in undulating murmurations, moving both at random and in tandem through the air, filling power lines and empty fields and trees whenever they come to rest.

The other day, I saw the hawk flying through that same airspace and suddenly an entire flock of dark birds poured out to attack from their hiding place in the trees. It worried me, seeing this mighty raptor swarmed by such an overwhelming number; I thought perhaps the predator might become the prey, and the prey, the predator.

Yet the hawk flew peacefully on, as always, and seemed to take no notice of the dark birds. It finally crossed some invisible border, and the swarm turned and flew back to their trees to hide and rest and wait for the next intruder or the signal to continue the migration south.

In a week or two, the hawk will have the sky to itself until the dark birds return in the spring. It will be the hawk’s season and it knows this, and is patient. Focused.

The little dark birds may chase and screech and pick out a few feathers, but in the end, the hawk remains.

P.S. As my friend Bill pointed out, the gang attack on the hawk is an example of mobbing.


Photo credit:  Maresa Smith, via Death to Stock Photos.

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