The Harrier and the Sparrow
The fat flakes of snow flew every which way, but mostly sideways. Along with the northern wind came the frigid cold, and the only way the birds kept warm were to stay in large flocks.
The birds felt safe from predators as they gathered at the feeders under cover of the storm. Surely, the raptors wouldn’t be hunting when the snow fell so fast you could barely see through the flakes.
Hunting from above the treetops, the Northern Harrier had been hungry since her last meal the day before. Needing to keep her energy up, especially during the winter storm, it was only by chance she spotted the large flocks of tiny birds gorging themselves at the manmade feeders.
The meal would be small, but having such a large gathering unaware of her presence would make easy pickings for her breakfast.
Carefully selecting her prey, she watched the sparrow’s rhythm, back and forth from feeder to shrub, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Suddenly, a warning shrieked throughout the flock, and instinct drove the birds for immediate cover. Some dove into the thick shrubbery, while others sought solace within the heavy, pine boughs.
Unaware of the threat, the little sparrow didn’t realize the warning shriek was intended for him. With the safety of the shrub so close, surely the alert was meant for another.
The small bird was so close to reaching shelter that the Harrier would hardly have enough energy to continue hunting if she did not succeed in this moment. The snow pelted her face and chest nearly knocking her off course, but her aim was true, even as the northern winds attempted to thwart her success.
The concussion of the blow as raptor talons hammered into the small sparrow’s body echoed over the sound of the winter wind. The flocks of birds that made it to safety shuddered in fear as they witnessed the carnage mere inches away from their refuge. Breathless with fear, the ones lucky enough to make it to safety averted their eyes away from the grisly scene unfolding before them.
The impact tore the breath from the little sparrow’s lungs and the world, as he knew it, disappeared forever.
Although the meal was small, the Northern Harrier was grateful for the sustenance.
And the circle of life continues…
The birds were the busiest I’ve seen them during our last winter storm. The fat flakes of snow fell over a foot deep in the two days that the storm pummeled northern Michigan.
Glancing out the window toward the feeders, I noticed the pile of feathers strewn across the snow and underneath the raptor’s feet. It was mid-morning and at first glance, I thought the bird was a Mourning Dove. The only problem was, I couldn’t figure out what was underneath her on the snow.
As my brain caught up working out the scene, I finally realized what I was looking at and ran for the camera.
Figuring the bird would spook as soon as I aimed at her, I didn’t bother grabbing the tripod.
Having to hand-hold the bulky 500mm lens and hope the speed was set fast enough to snatch a good shot, I was amazed when she turned and gave me the evil eye and continued her meal.
As you can see, the Northern Harrier was fine with getting her photograph taken while enjoying her breakfast. And although it was gruesome to watch as she pulled the poor little bird apart, I reminded myself that raptor’s need to eat too.
What kind of raptors have you seen in your yard?
Thanks so much for reading!
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