Hawk hors d’oeuvres

The Feather Factor with Sherry Lidstone

I get excited when I spot a hawk soaring high up in the sky, and even more so when I witness their majestic beauty at close range.

Unfortunately, if I do have the opportunity to see a hawk that close, it means one of my sweet songbirds is most likely going to become a meal.

This is where my own personal dilemma lies. I claim to be a bird aficionado, and by rights that should mean I feel affection for all birds equally. Sadly though, there are birds I have a sort of love/hate relationship with…..the meat eaters and egg stealers.

One of my Facebook friends posted the other day that she had just come back in from refilling her ‘hawk feeders’. I must admit her statement took me by surprise having never thought of it that way before. Obviously she has a special place in her heart for hawks or maybe she has just accepted what naturally occurs in nature with or without her help.

Myself, I go out of my way to make sure my feeders are under trees and other shelters, out of the view of the sharp-eyed hawks. This doesn’t always work though as proven by our resident Cooper’s hawk.

This particular hawk comes right in and sits on a fence within a few feet of one of the feeders. He sits there for several minutes at a time, silent and amazingly still, biding his time; waiting for the return of the birds he scared off with his arrival. The poor songbirds don’t stand a chance.

Yes, hawks need to eat too but not ‘my’ birds and definitely not in front of me!

Last summer I spent a good deal of time running around the yard clapping in an effort to scare the various hawks away. It would work for about a minute, until they’d circled back for another try. A futile attempt on my part to say the least but I would like to think I at least helped spare a life or two in the process.

Hawks aren’t the only birds that feed on other birds. Crows, ravens, starlings and magpies also fall into this category.

A few years ago I witnessed a single common raven decimate an entire crow’s nest, one baby crow at a time. There were four fledglings in the nest,  and even with close to 100 crows bombarding it and creating an incredibly noisy ruckus, the raven just carried on with its grizzly task undeterred.

I had watched the pair of crows build their nest and raise their young for weeks and felt a special affection for the family. I was saddened by the turn of events and my jaw dropped in shock and awe as this drama unfolded.

I must admit I do not have the stomach for witnessing nature in action, mostly because I tend to suffer from Anthromrphism (ascribing human attributes to non human things) and am probably more distressed than the parent bird that has just lost its young. It upsets me to see a magpie or a starling steal a young bird from its nest or a hawk chase a doomed grosbeak around the yard but it is a cycle of life that is necessary for all species to survive.

If I were a hawk fanatic of course none of this would bother me. I truly like hawks but would prefer to see them soaring in the skies and not refuelling at my newly christened ‘hawk feeders’.

For those on the internet, there are several live nest cams where you can view these beauties up close and personal. Here are a few B.C. live cams:

• Barn Owl at Campbell River – http://www.metrovancouver.org/wildlife/Pages/default.aspx

• Bald Eagles on Hornby Island – http://www.hornbyeagles.com/webcam.htm

• Osprey nest in Kelowna – http://www.ustream.tv/channel/osprey-cam

In closing, hawks may love the sick birds that dirty feeders can cause, but the song birds prefer cleanliness.

Until next time…happy birding!