Evolution in Action

Living, as I do, in a wild and untamed part of the city, there is often a bewildering array of wildlife wandering through our yard, from possums and raccoons to birds of prey to geese to… deer, even.

In the winter, we have bird feeders out, because one of my roommates gets some warm fuzzy feeling from feeding wildlife, and because the resulting flocks of birds are cheap entertainment for all our cats.

Most days, we have between fifteen and thirty birds in our backyard, many of them perched in a pine tree. Presumably, they do this for protection, not just from the elements – as inimical as those can be, in winter in Minnesota – but from predators. And for good reason; we see a lot of birds of prey that like to snack on wrens and finches and sparrows, oh my.

The bigger hawks and raptors, like the one shown above, tend to lay in wait, and swoop down on unsuspecting birds on the ground, chasing seeds fallen from the feeders.

There’s at least one hawk around here, though, that has developed a much more amusing – and effective – method. He (I’m guessing…) sneaks up behind the pine tree all the birds sit in, crawls inside, and picks off his unsuspecting meal, before hauling it a brief distance away to feast upon its still-warm flesh.

It’s effective, obviously. And, were I less busy, I suppose I could probably come up with a lengthy and preachy metaphor comparing this to domestic Homeland Security policy, whereby the flocks of little brown birds sit around in ignorance in a tree, confident that their protective measures are sufficient, all the while completely failing to realize that their enemy has exploited their defenses to his advantage… but I’m not, so I won’t.

Seeing nature up close and personal disabuses you of a lot of illusions, I will say that. As a kid, I always envisioned these birds of prey as swooping down on their victims, taking them on the wing in midair, or whatever… not wading in on foot and engaging in vicious hand-to-hand combat.

Published in: General | on February 7th, 2011| Comments Off on Evolution in Action

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