Wolves of the Sky

Note: As I have said before, a downside to having a large flock of birds is that you lose a few now and then. My sweet lovebird Tekla managed to get an electric shock, and died within hours, before we truly knew what had happened to her. Please be careful if you let your birds play on anything that carries a current.

One of the many joys of living in San Diego County is the availability of The San Diego Zoo and Safari (Wild Animal) Park. I can spend hours in either place, watching the birds and shooting bad phone photos. I’m really good at that.

032016 safari park

A few weeks ago I went with a friend to walk at the Safari Park and of course to look at the newest tiger on exhibition. We took a break after hours of walking to watch the Frequent Fliers Bird Show. Amazing birds easily go through their routines with human companions.

But it’s not just a sit and be entertained type of show. The humans provide lots of great information about the flying stars. I have heard the name Harris’s Hawk but never knew much about this special desert raptor.

032016 family nest

They are called the Wolves of the Sky because they hunt in packs. That’s right, a bird pack. That hunts. Together. I’ll wait while you absorb that information. Ready?

According to Cornell Labs, these hawks do everything together: Hunting, feeding, building nests, tending young, and so on. That social nature made it easy to keep and train for humans. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Harriss_Hawk/id

032016 tail stripe

Harris’s are easy to spot, due to the beautiful strip of white at the bottom edge of their tail feathers. And they aren’t as easily spooked by the close approach of humans. In flight, they are agile and strong, chasing prey out of dense brush into the open where others are waiting to take it down. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/harriss-hawk

032016 rs-harrishawkstack

And as if that’s not enough unusual behavior, these hawks have no problem allowing a pack mate to perch on their back when all other perches are taken. Hawk stacking looks odd, but if it were an Olympic sport, they’d ace it. http://www.peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/Harris’s_Hawk

This video shows that speed alone won’t help a jack rabbit once the hawks have spotted it. Caution: If you sympathize with mammals, you probably shouldn’t watch this one. http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/harriss-hawk-vs-jackrabbit-predation

032016 hawk in the hand

So we have a social hawk that does just about everything as a group, is easy to train to live with humans, and is as beautiful as they come. Just about perfect. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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