Sunday, April 15, 2007

Crummy Raptors

I saw something very odd, leaving work the other day; odd to me at least. The data center where I work has broad expanses of lawn, punctuated with willow trees (which I always thought were an unreasonable choice for a water-challenged climate); it also has little decorative fountains with ponds. The willows are always full of birds, including crows, which have become more common in the last few years; and we've recently had a pair of mallard ducks enjoying the lawns.

I saw a crow attacking a smaller bird; and not very efficiently, either. I was maybe 40 feet from all this and couldn't see details clearly; but the smaller bird seemed to be all white (unusual in a wild bird); it looked like a parakeet. It was about that size and had sort of a rounded silhouette; it was walking along the lip of the fountain pool, peeping. The crow was standing on the lawn, several feet away, and as I watched, it flew over, pounced on the small bird, and picked it up in its beak. The crow carried the small bird, peeping wildly, to the lawn, and dropped it. The small bird seemed to be trying to defend itself (I'm anthropomorphizing wildly here) - it waved its wings at the crow, peeped wildly, and tried to scuttle away. The crow watched for a bit and then struck again. It looked like nothing so much as a cat toying with a mouse.

This sequence repeated itself three or four times while I watched. By then I had decided that I wasn't enjoying this very much, and in any case I had a train to catch and was already late. So I went on and didn't see the end.

I asked my husband about the incident later; he's not a birder as such, but he hikes and backpacks, and has seen a lot in the back country. He's the source of the phrase, "crummy raptors"; crows, he says, will try to be raptors but they aren't very good at it. They certainly aren't; an owl or a hawk would have killed that bird with one strike. I refuse to anthropomorphize to the point of thinking the crow was playing with the bird for fun; I assume it was trying to kill it with inadequate equipment.

The other thing that puzzles me is where the little white bird came from. I've never seen a bird like it anywhere near the data center. It almost looked like a released domestic bird. It met an unhappy end, wherever it came from.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:39 PM

    I really don't like crows, they are becoming more and more populus in the place I live mostly because they are scavengers and we folks leave lots of stuff including road kill around. I chase them off my roof when they think the metal around the skylight is bright shiny stuff for their nests and I stay around long enough to be sure they are gone not just sitting in the tree next door waiting for me to leave. Oh well, crummy for certain, their dreams!