Backyard Drama

I've gotten a lot of enjoyment from watching birds at the feeders in our backyard. To attract a greater variety of birdlife, I've set the table featuring both sunflower seeds and suet. Seed eaters such as house finches, juncos and chickadees are among our regulars as are our woodpeckers, magpies and others that prefer suet.

Several years ago, a pair of newcomers arrived on the scene...turtle doves. Not native to North America, they had the graceful lines of a dove, but a less melodious call than that of a mourning dove. These birds may have been caged and somehow gained their freedom.

One event at the feeder remains firmly etched in my mind. The scene, a feeder stocked with sunflower seeds and hanging from the eve about six feet above the ground, from which I was about to witness a happening of stealth and precision.

It was slow going at the feeder when a lone house finch touched down. A male with signature springtime reddish colors munched down several seeds, then eyeballed a number that had spilled to the ground. For some reason these seemed to be more of an attraction than those at the feeder. The finch pushed off from the feeder to sample those on the ground; however, he never made it. About half-way down it encountered a sharpshin hawk at full throttle with an amazing sense of timing, who with a slight adjustment in flight extended a foot tipped with talons and grasped the finch in mid-air.

Surprisingly, the hawk didn't break a wing-beat as it delivered a crushing blow. It swooped away with its catch and landed in a Russian olive tree in our backyard and proceeded to eat this sparrow-sized bird. After the hawk sectioned its catch and swallowed each piece, I walked over to where the now departed sharp shin had been. All I could find in the thin layer of snow were several drops of blood and two breast feathers. So you don't have to go to Africa to witness drama in the wild, for it can happen right in our own backyard. 


STORY TIME WITH KENT OLSON A Collection of Wildlife Short Stories

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