Thursday, February 26, 2009

Measured resistance

Fights between hawks and crows are usually noisy and brutal. Crows generally gang up to attack a lone hawk, and I find it disturbing to watch, even though I know the crows are only defending themselves. I can't help identifying with the predatory hawk, just trying to survive, all alone against the mob.

But today I saw a squabble between a Cooper's hawk and a solitary crow that made me think about the beauty of restraint, and the intimacy of conflict. It was early morning and overcast--prime hunting conditions for the hawk, since everyone is out in search of breakfast, and the clouds mean he casts no warning shadow. I heard the familiar battle cry of the crows, and looked up to see a half dozen of them chasing the hawk along the tree line.

Normally, they would all have stayed on him until they drove him out of their territory or onto the ground, but that didn't happen. Once they had him safely away from their roosting spot, all the crows but one turned back. Then the hawk and the sole defender flew in a wide circle for several minutes, the crow diving, the hawk smoothly dodging him. Cooper's hawks are not much bigger than crows, and the pair's movements were so unhurried and graceful, a casual observer might have thought he was seeing two crows at play.

The crow was persistent and the hawk did eventually retreat, but the crow didn't seem victorious, nor the hawk vanquished. They both left the field of battle slowly, calmly. I got the sense that they had simply agreed to cease hostilities. Members of enemy species, they had colluded in peace.

Photo of Cooper's hawk by Mdf from Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

chayaruchama said...

Stunning- I don't think I would have been able to breathe, witnessing that debacle.

Perhaps it was a recognition of equals- the value of a living, worthy adversary...

Do birds acknowledge that ? I wonder...