Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Feathered Collision

Soccer balls slamming against the windows of the cafeteria at the elementary school where my wife teaches is pretty much an every day occurence. To their surprise the bang they heard the other day didn't originate from an errant ball.

According to David Malakoff in an article in the March 2004 issue of Audubon, "window strikes kill between 100 million and 1 billion birds in North America each year......" One theory states that this happens because birds see their reflections in the glass and think they're seeing another bird and being territorial tries to attack it.

While everyone else in the cafeteria refused to approach the injured juvenile Cooper's hawk my wife (the "cajun") was the first and only one to go to its aid. It's injuries must've been severe because by the time I arrived it had expired.

Rather than allow this beautiful creature to go to waste, I was able to find an ornithologist from a local university through acquaintences of mine to legally take it for study.

One other tidbit of information should be noted. Several custodians that were present kept commenting on the fact that even though the bird had just died there were already flies being attracted to its carcass. At first I disreguarded this due to the “tunnel vision” I was exhibiting over my excitement of seeing a hawk so close up.

Eventually I began to look at the flies and noticed that they were rather odd looking. Unlike the usual house, blue or green bottle fly they had a flat looking appearance. I captured two in a vial and later found these to be louse flies. These ectoparasites feed on the blood of pigeons and doves, which are prey items of hawks. When feeding on these birds the flies jump onto the hawks and began feeding on them. Their flat profile along with specialized claws allow them to scurry easily through the plumage of birds.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw one Monday driving up to my work. Obviously I interrupted his meal because as he flew into a tree nearby he left a load of feathers on our driveway. I tried to catch a picture of him but couldn't locate him.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Camera Trap Codger said...

A shame, but always interesting when something like this happens. The flies were the bonus. Any museum around there interested in the specimen. You hate to see it go to waste. BTW, I have some "screech owl flies" in a vial here somewhere.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Kathleen Gresham said...

I ran across your blog on, and I am so glad I did! It is wonderful!

I write the Houston Shamanism Examiner column at and also organize the Houston Shamanism Meetup group. I am always telling people to study and observe actual animals and plants instead of trying to find "meanings" for them in books.

Not everyone can do that, but your blog is a wonderful resource to help people become aware of the wildlife around them and help them learn more about it.

I have recommended your blog in a post I just made to my column. I will be adding a link to our resource list and publicizing the post on Meetup, Twitter, and Facebook.

I just wanted you to know how much your work is appreciated over here in Houston by a bunch of city people you may never meet.

Thank you so much for sharing your observations, knowledge and photos through your clear and interesting writing.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...

wow Kathleen...thanks for the very nice compliment and for spreading the word about my blog. One thing I've tried to do in my posts is to make sure they're informative as well as written in such a way as to hopefully interest readers in the natural world around us. It seems these days that the presence of nature has been forgotten especially among children who nowadays have literally no contact with the outside world.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...


You're exactly right. It's a shame but always exciting to be able to see wildlife that normally you wouldn't be able to see upclose. Some birding friends of mine knew of a local ornithologist that took the bird for study. And the flies were really creepy looking....

4:45 PM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...


Excellent observation! While sitting on the front porch my wife saw one literally snatch a white-winged dove on the wing. Not long after I watch as a hawk grab a gray squirrel off of a limb in a sweet gum tree. It's always nice when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.

4:48 PM  

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