Birds of Prey

This weekend I got a surprise when I stumbled upon a dead hawk in the pasture.  It is pretty rare to find a top tier predator dead of natural causes.  It wasn’t warm, but it also wasn’t too stinky or fly covered so it must have been recently deceased.  I brought it up for the kids to investigate.  We were all duly impressed by the sharpness of its talons and beak, the solid strong head, and the large wing span.

Terrible beauty.  I’m referring to the talons, not my field-begrimed fingers.

But hawks aren’t the only predatory birds around here.  How about them chickens?  I raised the lid on the hens’ bulk feeder and a mouse (who had improvised nicely by building a cozy nest out of chicken feathers) popped out.  Whoosh, and a few hundred hens in a scrum were going after it.

Chicken Scrum
Mine!  Mine!  Mine!  Mine!

Out of the crowd one hen would emerge victorious, mouse held aloft by foot or tail, streaking away with her prey and pistoning in that absurd side-to-side slapping, flat footed chicken run.  But she could never put the mouse down long enough to make her meal.  As soon as she paused a dozen other hens would pounce and the pursuit shot off in a different direction.  They went round the pasture more times than I could stand to watch.  Eventually I lost interest and went on to the next chore, but the diversion apparently made their day.

Chicken with Mouse
Blurry because this was a high-speed pursuit…  Interestingly the rooster always kept one length behind whichever hen had the mouse.  Roosters never steal food from hens, and they often make a show of gifting food to their favorites, I think as a throwback to their predomesticated hunting days as wild jungle fowl.  This rooster wanted to stay close to the action but he never made a move to take the mouse for himself.

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