Jan 24 2008

No, they won’t eat corn

Published by at 10:12 am under Bird Behavior,Birds of Prey,Musings & News

Immature Coopers Hawk (photo by Chuck Tague)An animal-lover friend of mine began to feed the birds and was shocked when a coopers hawk killed a mourning dove at her feeder.  She does not eat meat and wanted to know if she could train the coopers not to eat meat either.  “If I put out more corn, will he eat the corn and not the doves?”

“No,” I said, “he will not eat corn.  He’s a carnivore.  That’s just how it is.”

Because humans are omnivores and we grow our own food, we find it hard to imagine the lives of creatures who must hunt to live.  If a coopers hawk is not an efficient hunter, if it does not kill birds, it will die.  It would be cruel to the hawk if it could not hunt. 

But what about the prey species?  Is it cruel to them that they are hunted? 

There is a beautiful poem by James Dickey in which he describes the heaven where wild animals go.  Called The Heaven of Animals he describes the predators in their heaven crouched on the limbs of trees and writes,

“And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.”

The universe is structured so that everything is eaten by something – in the grave, if not before. What an amazing cycle.

That’s just how it is.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “No, they won’t eat corn”

  1. Marjorie Vantasselon 28 Jan 2008 at 8:01 pm

    That’s what’s so wonderful about nature–I just began birding (besides feeding birds in backyard, which I did for years). I had a sharp-shinned hawk swoop down from woods behind my back yard and field behind that and grab a sparrow from my feeder when we had our first snowfall in Gilpin Township. After all, as they say on birding forums and other nature sites–hawks have to eat, too. That’s one way of nature keeping things in balance.
    I thoroughly enjoy your website. Thanks for all the interesting articles, photos, etc.

  2. Gaill Meisteron 30 Jan 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I have a sharp-shinned hawk that has helped him or herself to quite a few birds at my feeder. The last one was a blue jay. It has slammed a robin into my picture window then took it when it fell below the window. It has also tried to take off with my cat in the front picture window. It scared the cat to death for a short time. She would not come out from the chair for a couple days and did not sit on the window sill for a number of weeks. The bird knocked itself silly and sat on the tree branch outside my window for about ten or so minutes trying to regain it senses. I now see I have a larger hawk hanging around but have not seen it long enough to identify it. I watch my Italian Greyhound quite closely when I let her out. I do not want to let her be hawk food no matter how much I enjoy watching the birds.

  3. Kate StJon 31 Jan 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Predators – hawks, cats, etc – are normal at feeders but it sounds like your picture window could be making it extra hard for the birds to escape. If your feeders are relatively close to the window, the birds don’t “see” the glass when they try to flee. They only see a hole (room) to escape into and slam into the window. By simply moving the feeders away from the window and further out in the yard, you can significantly reduce window kills and stunned birds that are picked off by hawks. Alternatively you can keep the shades or blinds partially closed or put special decals on the window. There’s a lot of information on how to protect your window and the birds at: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/attracting/challenges/window_collisions

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