Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Hawks and Doves

Let me tell you a little story:

I'm at work, minding my own business, when someone from another department approaches me. They're out of breath. It's an emergency!

What happened? Did an animal escape?

No, they say. It's that damn hawk! It caught another pigeon! Come quick!

Okay, I'll say. There isn't much we can do. It's just nature taking its course.

At this point they stop and stare at me. What? How can you say that? It's hurt!

I've had this scenario repeated with doves, pigeons, even a wild duck which I saw plucked from one of the ponds by a huge female red tail. All of which brings me to my point: it sucks to see animals harmed, and killed. But, the hawk's gotta eat too.

(Full disclosure: I'm a vegetarian. I'd never eat a dove. Or a duck. Or a hawk, for that matter. But this is a choice. I'm human, and one of the benefits of this condition is that I can make choices. The hawk can't. Even if he could reason out the implications of a vegetarian diet, he's an obligate carnivore).

And the pigeons? They want to stay alive. They don't want to be eaten... But there are a lot more of them in the world than there are hawks. They thrive in an urban environment. Often the hawks are just hanging on.

So, you may be wondering, what happened to the pigeon that was caught by the hawk? Well, as luck would have it, the hawk was startled when my co-worker approached it. He dropped the little white bird and flew off. The pigeon ran under a bush, and from there I cornered him. He wasn't too badly hurt: nothing was broken and the wounds were superficial. I cleaned him up, patched up his cuts (I'm a certified wildlife rehabber) and placed him on "cage rest" in a clean crate with plenty of warmth, food, and water. In a couple of days he was good as new, ready to face off against the hawks of the world again.

So, my advice to anyone who comes across a similar situation? Let the hawk be. Turn away if you must. But don't scare the hawk away from her meal. You will be left with an injured and frightened victim who's suffering has just been prolonged, and who will often die of an infection later if his wounds aren't treated. The hawk will have to spend extra energy hunting, and her babies may go hungry.

Of course, if you find a bird who has been injured by a now-departed hawk, please get him help. All animals feel pain and the lowly pigeon is no exception (personally, I love pigeons, and doves in general, having worked with scores of them). If you don't know bird first aid, find a local wildlife rehabber.

And to everyone who cares enough to worry about doves, hawks, and wildlife in general... THANK YOU!


  1. What a great piece on why wildlife is wild and why we should leave it be! Thanks so much for explaining this to those in the world who would intervene on the preys behalf. While we see ourselves as the hero we are often mistaken.

  2. That's so true, Reptile! The world is so much more complicated than we think sometimes. Thanks for reading and for your kind words!

  3. Great post! The only time I ever wish we'd been able to intervene was when a teaching hawk who lived free on the grounds of the rehab facility caught and ate a freshly released boreal owl. It was a terrible thing to have happen, but honestly, we couldn't stop laughing. The hawk was a teaching bird because she'd never shown any interest in hunting - she peacefully shared a feeding platform with wild squirrels for heaven's sake - and she caught and ate an owl?!??!?!! One that we'd just invested months rehabbing to boot!

    PS - love that photo of you, and wow, what a gorgeous bird!

  4. A thoughtful and caring post viewed through the eyes of reality. Great one.

  5. That was a great post, thanks for sharing!

  6. Awesome post! How did you get certified??? That's a goal of mine for the future :-)

  7. Tatty, haha! I had something similar happen, with a mourning dove. Circle of life, right? That giant guy next to me is a harpy eagle named Ghost who lives at the L.A. Zoo.

    Thanks Peggy and rabbit!

    Erin, I went up to Santa Barbara and took a some classes followed by some tests. I'm only the most basic level of certified.


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