Real Predation

I think many of us who admire predators love their beautifully-evolved forms, their tenacity, intelligence and unique lifestyles. An unstated part of the amazement I feel is that these animals actually kill and eat their prey. That’s pretty damn gnarly when you think of it. However, I also think those of us who get a lot of our nature via beautiful footage from the BBC or Nat Geo rarely see “nature, red in tooth and claw.” I was reminded of this as I watched the BBC’s excellent series “The Hunt”- it’s called “The Hunt” and not “The Kill” for a reason. There’s very little mayhem or blood to be seen. There’s a lot of slow motion HD footage of animals hunting (the segment with a Caracal leaping impossibly high while hunting birds is literally breathtaking), but the actual kill is left out. I understand that, but it does a disservice to the true nature of these singularly impressive creatures.

All of that is a way of introducing some really awful photographs I took last winter and filed away in the “I’ll do a blog post about this” section of my brain. The imminent arrival of a new laptop has harshed my inertia! Anyway, my wife noticed a large bird eating something in the snowy street outside our townhouse last January and when we looked with binoculars it turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk feasting on one of the numerous pigeons in our neighborhood. We did not see the actual strike, but watched the hawk eat for several minutes, even with people walking their dogs right across the street (it’s a side street and not a major thoroughfare). After about 15 minutes, the hawk hulked its meal into the air and flew off. I went out to the remains and snapped some shots that really showed the full story of what predation is truly about. Keep on hunting, Coop!!!

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Our first view out the window.

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Plucking the pigeon.

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Getting a bit deeper into the carcass.

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The initial plucking spot.

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The detritus of death.

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Blood, feathers and fat…

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2 Responses to “Real Predation”

  1. Josh Gross | The Jaguar Says:

    This is incredible! Last night I had an usually vivid dream involving a Cooper’s hawk.

    But that’s not unusual, because I love Cooper’s hawks. One time at work (I used to work at a park), a Cooper’s hawk swooped down and grabbed a robin that was literally right next to me. It was incredible to witness the speed and precision of that kill, and to this day I consider myself blessed for being able to see that.

    I think you’re also right about not showing predation as being a disservice. We need to understand that some animals need to kill to eat, and that’s just part of the circle of life. By rarely airing that side of nature, documentaries reinforce the notion that predation is somehow “bad.” That’s one of the reasons I love Wild Safari Live so much: they show everything. Viewers always complain when they show buffalos being killed by lions or carcasses being fed on, but the guides are adamant about the need to show nature as it really is. As they say, viewers can always look away if they choose to.

  2. swjags Says:

    Very true, Josh. As you say, predation isn’t always nice to watch, but it is one of the basic facts of existence, whether or not we approve. We have the ability to make other choices, but carnivorous animals have the time-tested tools they were born with and the skills they have learned. And that’s it. They deserve at least our grudging admiration, if nothing else, IMHO! I grant them a lot more than that! 🙂

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