Last Sunday my bride and I settled in for a post-lunch-tea-and-snooze in the parlor. The previous week’s unseasonably temperate spring-going-on-summer weather had yielded to cold and rain, so we weren’t feeling too guilty about playing hooky. No gardening or tidying up the waterfront for spring boating. No orchard pruning or apple tree grafting for us. Just a lazy afternoon on the dry side of our rain pelted windows…
That’s the noise of a dove crashing into a window pane.
Hawk Attacks Dove
We headed into the breakfast room where we discovered a fierce looking hawk pinning a dove to the ground on the lawn near the bird feeders, ripping beak-fulls of feather and flesh from the stunned dove’s back.
Did I mention that the dove was still alive? Despite the predator’s fierce talons and efficient beak, the dove periodically struggled and lifted its head to look around. The efforts were futile and only increased the hawk’s aggression.
It was a fascinating if deeply disturbing sight. A real world immersion in the sort of wild spectacle usually limited to the Discovery Channel. A Rosslyn safari sequel to the the Fox & Squirrel episodes.
A dusty impression of the dove was still visible on the glass, and I surmised that the dove had crashed into the window while attempting to flee the hawk. I had seen a similar image about a week before on the kitchen window, as if a dove had been rolled in flour and then pressed against the glass, wings outstretched and head turned to the side revealing an eye and and the beak. Had this same drama played out then?
My bride was horrified. She raced outside flapping a pair of bright pink dishwashing gloves and shouting at the hawk. “Stop that! Get out of here. Go away!” The hawk looked at Susan flapping the pink gloves menacingly less than 10 feet away, then looked down at the dove, then up at me standing in the window, then back at Susan. The dove lifted it’s head, eyes wild with fright.
A standoff? A detente?
Suddenly the hawk flapped its wings lifting the still struggling dove from the ground. My fearless bride leaped toward the hawk, flailing her gloves and shouting angrily. The hawk settled briefly in front of the kitchen window and then flew away, abandoning the injured dove.
My bride pulled on her gloves and lifted the injured dove from the grass. It gazed up at her, struggling to breath. She carried the dying bird to the edge of our front lawn where placed it gently into a comfortable nest of leaves and twigs.
In recent weeks we’ve seen three of four piles of feathers near the bird feeder on different occasions, but I assumed the fox had switched from squirrels to doves. It turns out that we have two efficient predators who’ve discovered the benefits of dining on critters drawn to our birdfeeders.
Hawk Attack Dove “Research”
Never having witnessed this before I turned to the interwebs for assistance in deciphering what we witnessed. I found forums and blog posts documenting the exact same experience, in many cases even including the dove or pigeon smashing into a window before being nabbed by the hawk. And there’s a veritable glut of video footage online if your stomach is strong and your emotions are steely. (Note: If you are remotely squeamish, these videos are not for you.)
- Sparrow hawk attacks and eats a mourning dove
- Cooper’s hawk vs. dove
- Hawk catches a Dove
- Pigeon eaten live by sparrow hawk
Are we contributing to the predation by overfeeding wildlife. I’m increasingly concerned that we are. Is there a better balance between feeding songbirds during the winter and over-concentrating/over-fattening the squirrel and dove populations? Certainly. But we haven’t quite figured out how to proceed.
I’ve recommended limiting bird feeding to the cold winter months, and my bride has reluctantly agreed. Verbally. When the food runs out. Which means that Rosslyn remains a fast food restaurant for foxes and hawks. And while my bride had repeatedly decreed our yard a safe haven for wildlife, we haven’t figure out how to communicate this to the predators. All advice welcome!
Hawk Attacks Dove Update
Half a year later I flash back to this experience.
It’s autumn, and we’ve just placed the bird feeders out for the winter. I’ve seen a fox slinking among the cedar hedge, spying on the squirrels, planning his next meal. The first pigeons arrive to peck the overspill sunflowers from the ground beneath the feeders.
Still no hawks.
And then, one crashes through the interwebs, plunges into my day, startles me, horrifies me, fascinates me. A hawk. A hare. An attack so familiar it seems as if I had watched the hawk attack the dove only yesterday.
— virtualDavis (@virtualDavis) November 10, 2012