After writing about perspective last week, I have been haunted by the notion that I did not consider all perspectives in the case of my killed chicken. I don’t mean considering all the collective human perspectives on food procurement, but rather the perspective of a co-predator (if we choose to be omnivores), the hawk.
I am not mad at the hawk. I believe the trite, but true explanation that it was just doing what it needs to do to survive. If anything, I am mad at myself. I knew the hawk was around. I had seen it several times in the last few weeks. I am usually cautious about when I let the chickens out, trying to be home at least, or better yet working in the yard. But I was more cavalier that day, and choose to take a walk. I wonder where the hawk was sitting, and watching, as I walked up the road putting too much distance between Halcyon and myself to be of any threat to its intentions.
If it thinks like we do, did it think today’s my lucky day?
Putting ourselves in others’ shoes is a good exercise, something we are hopefully taught at a young age when we have slighted another child or when we feel an injustice has happened to us. Putting myself in the paws and claws of the species that live at Halcyon is one of my, perhaps futile, goals of this blog. How could I possibly know what another animal is thinking? In reality though, do we always know exactly what our friends and loved ones are thinking? We are not always right when we try on their shoes, but the effort is important. All I can do is try to think like a hawk.
The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a large bird-of-prey. It has a wingspan of 38-42 inches and can weigh up to four pounds. Females are on the larger side of this range and males on the smaller side. They are brown with a white chest and rust-colored tail. They build their nests at the edge of a stream or field and prefer wooded habitat next to open areas. Although, since it is distributed widely throughout the Americas, red-tailed hawks utilize a wide range of habitats. Halcyon, albeit a small, piece of land in the midst of similar broken up parcels, is very good habitat for hawks. We have a small wooded area, open fields, and a stream. Throw in a few tall, dead black locust trees for perching and it is even better. Add four large chickens contained in an open air space and it is downright perfect. No wonder it was hanging around. No wonder it was planning its kill. Wouldn’t I want some easier prey if I were a large bird that needed to eat?
I am glad the hawk is here. I wonder if it will stay nearby for the spring and find a mate. What a gift I would be given if I were lucky enough to observe a mating ritual. I try to imagine the thrill of soaring and falling through the air as hawks do together during their aerial courtship acrobatics. Copulation usually occurs after these aerial antics. It does not take too much imagination to sense their whole courtship and mating to be much more exciting than the box turtle oh thank goodness I bumped into another member of my species, we better do this sex I wrote about last summer.
I have no reason to think the hawk that killed my chicken will leave because I stole its meal. We have plenty of small mammals available, and hawks have been here for years. So while, I cannot really put myself in its shoes (talons), I think I can appreciate that Halcyon is a good place to live and hunt for wildlife. If I were a hawk, I would have tried for the big birds in the large, semi-trapped space too.
I had a friend reply to my post that I owed the hawk a meal since it had worked hard to procure my chicken. It had spent time scoping out the territory and planning its move. Perhaps. I can certainly understand hard work. I have worked hard in all my jobs, and lazy people easily frustrate me. I worked hard to raise the chicks, my husband works hard to provide for our needs, and for the twice as expensive, non-GMO, soy-free layer feed that I buy – and the girls love. Chris and I both worked hard to build their coop, adding its chore to our already busy summer days. I admire those that work hard, and so I admire the hawk. But she was my chicken, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I owed her to anyone or anything.