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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