Monday, January 3, 2011

Return of the Hawk

Back in December 2008, I shot this photograph and blogged about the hawk that had been visiting regularly the bare tree in my backyard, even noting that all the other birds disappeared when he was there. I was just finishing my morning cuppa when I noticed outside the window that the beautiful bird had returned. I'm assuming it's the same bird, as these creatures are habitual, although I don't remember seeing him last winter. For a moment, he was staring right back at me. He then quickly proceeded to look everywhere around him with great agitation. I ran to get my binoculars to see him up close, and just as I was about to use them, I realized he was tearing something apart. Yes, my beautiful hawk was having his breakfast, shredding away at something with his talons and beak. At first I thought it was a mouse, but upon closer examination I discovered (much to my dismay) that it was the body of another bird. As feathers flew everywhere, I seriously had to swallow down my nausea and put the binoculars away. It's one thing to see nature on TV, another to see it through binoculars in your backyard. Then it occurred to me...why would it have been acceptable if the hawk had been eating a mouse? Why did him eating another bird disturb me so much? Partly it's because we rank species on a hierarchical scale; birds are better, more attractive creatures than mice. But it's also same species syndrome.

By and large we can handle the reality of nature, that animals do eat other animals (uhm...I did eat a turkey burger for dinner last night). But the notion that some animals will eat other creatures in the same species, or even their young, makes us conscious of our own animalistic nature, that of all the meats "civilized" humans do eat, other human flesh is excluded, as are animals that we've made into pets. Is it all psychological then? In our search for being "civilized," have we consciously made a stipulation not to eat others of our kind? Don't worry, I'm not advocating for cannibalism. And if you're upset about this post, rest assured I'm grossing myself out also, to the point that I'm considering becoming vegetarian again (although I did buy chicken for dinner tonight).

Regardless of how we feel, you know what I'm saying is true. We love dogs until we see them do dog-like things like sticking their noses near other dogs' anuses. We love fish until we see them attack and devour the eggs of other fish. We love koala bears until we realize that in order to mate the male has to rape the female. And we love birds until we see them do shocking things like attacking other creatures (humans even!) and sometimes even eating them. The challenge and beauty of loving animals, nature, and pets is learning to appreciate them as unique creatures who should be appreciated for what they are, not because we can anthropomorphize them. Getting back to the hawk, however, what fascinates me most is that it reminds us if ever we needed proof that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, just look outside my window. Now I know why all the other birds disappear when he's around.

1 comment:

kristinao said...

Loved this post. I have myself considered becoming a vegetarian. I love turkey on thanksgiving but when I am the one who has to wash it, stuff it, remove leftover feathers, tie its legs, tuck under its wings (I am shuddering as I type), I feel like a monster. How could I do this to another creature?? When it's cooked and sliced on my plate however...Yum, please pass the gravy!