This morning I'm watching and counting birds from the kitchen window for Project Feeder Watch. All is going nicely, had 18 American Goldfinches right off the start which is a great number for them, that I have not seen here in years. A couple White-breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos and Downy Woodpeckers as well.
In flew 3 Pigeons, I recognize the birds even though they aren't part of my flock of hand feeders. The Pigeons are poking around in the garden, picking up whatever has fallen from the feeders above.
Suddenly all the birds rocket out of the yard. The Pigeons are flying right towards the house and I know they are going to turn at the last minute and cut through the trees along the fence line. Just as they are making this turn, which is maybe 15 ft from the back of the house, I see a Cooper's Hawk rapidly approaching the birds.
Before my brain really clues into everything, I see the Hawk on top of one of the Pigeons in the air, and forcing it to the ground. BAM! Just like that. The two ended up just over the fence and in the yard next door. I have a clear view of everything from the window still due to a very old wire fence that separates the yards.
I'm stunned at what I saw. In all the years of backyard bird watching, I've seen a Hawk take something right in front of me only a very few times. It's shocking, it's incredible to witness and it's also heart breaking. But that is nature. There is no mercy. One can only hope the suffering is minimal, that the Hawk kills it's prey quick.
I'm watching from the window. One part of me wants to run outside and try to save the Pigeon. Another part of me knows this is part of the Hawk's survival, it has to eat too. I want to watch. I want to close the shutters.
I have the camera on the table and take a few shots through the glass. I dare not open the window and possibly spook the Hawk, perhaps abandoning it's catch which I see is still alive and fighting back.
The backyard Squirrels have taken notice to this ordeal and aren't happy about it at all. Tails flickering, they are slinking along the landscape, moving in on this Hawk. A couple run past it, another runs right at it, stopping at the last second. The Hawk stands it's ground over the Pigeon. Another Squirrel charges in and the Hawk flies off, leaving the Pigeon on the lawn. I can see the bird is still alive... barely. FUCK!
What do I do? Do I go out there and end the Pigeon's life, perform a mercy killing on this poor creature? The Hawk is still deep down the yard, just watching. The Squirrels spread out and go about their business, not having one concern for that Pigeon. Of course all the Pigeon's friends are long gone.
I decide to wait this out a little. I fear my going outside could send the Hawk flying off. The Pigeon is going to die regardless; it's almost lifeless now. I don't want it's death to be a waste.
Moments later the Cooper's Hawk flies in again, going right for it's meal. It grabs it in it's talons and flies off to the back, high in a tree, and goes to work plucking the Pigeon and then eating it's flesh. I can see this all quite well from the window with my binoculars.
We have our very own nature channel. Who needs television?
To think about 6 years ago I would be like "Ya! Kill those Pigeons! Get them out of here!" How times have changed.
Just this past week an old Facebook status of mine came up where I was putting out some monster bird feeder that would be Pigeon proof. Nowadays, I AM a Pigeon feeder in every sense.
I really hope this does not become a norm, our backyard turning into a blood bath, no matter what the Hawk(s) are taking out. I'm only really spotting the Cooper's about once a week but that don't mean it's not been there more (not seeing carnage and leftovers, feather piles). I've said it before if it ever got that bad, I would take down our feeders, dispersing things for a while. I love all birds including birds of prey but I don't want any part of luring birds daily to their death. It's not fair, especially to my Pigeon friends who have a trust in me. The birds won't starve, we aren't their only food supply. Not everyone will get this and I don't care.
I really hope I never see one snagging one of my special Pigeon friends. I honestly don't know what I would do if I witnessed that in a way like I did with this bird today. It's no wonder Pierre and his flock are staying well away right now. Some think Pigeons are stupid birds.