The Hawk And The DoveAlerted by the chirring of a Western Swamp Harrier, I look up from my customary position on the front porch in time to see the little hawk circling rapidly in a holding pattern, perhaps 50 feet above the ground, just across the street.
The bird’s characteristic sharp-pointed wings don’t move as it slices through the hot evening air in a tight curve, while it hunts some unwary prey. Then it tilts its body and fans its tail feathers, and its wings beat several times to keep it still and steady, hovering in the air, before it folds them back and swoops suddenly, silently, in a death-dive.
A little Senegal dove leaves its perch on a power line –too late!- and the swamp harrier seizes the unlucky bird in its talons, in mid-air, releasing a tiny puff of feathers that spread and spiral slowly down.
The dove –stunned into immobility- is about half the size and weight of the hawk, which has to flap and struggle to regain height, to reach the top branches of a tall eucalypt. I can no longer see it there, among the leafy branches, but there is a tell-tale rain of more feathers floating down, as the hawk tears into the dove.
It will eat only the liver –iron-rich, nutritious- and leave the rest of the carcass for the carrion birds, the ants and maggots.
I’ve been fortunate to witness ‘cruel’ nature at her best –red in beak and claw- and once again, I am rapt, in awe of raptors.