Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hummingbirds Being Stalked by a Cat or a Hawk?

You know how the sky is before the sun comes up, but there's already light outside? I wanted to allow whatever natural morning light there would be into the house for the birds this morning. So, very early I drew open the window blinds to cloudy wet skies and dim light. Sitting on the railing of our west deck was a rain-soaked hawk.

My digital camera isn't fast enough to snap a
photo of our local hawk, so I borrowed this one.
Our hummers are prey!
I've seen him only twice before and wrote about how he panicked the Bourkes through the window. This sighting was auspicious since I'd mentioned him to my husband as we lay in bed last night. About two weeks ago I started to step out onto the back porch at the south side of the house, and looked down before stepping out. I always check before I step. By doing that I've been fortunate to miss stepping on a tiny green tree frog and another time a small preying mantis. Our back porch is open, but has a roof over it, so little critters sometimes find refuge there ... especially when the weather turns cold.

This time, two weeks ago, there was something strange laying on the door mat. I feared it was a large spider and stepped over it, but it didn't move. I leaned in for a closer look. Sadly, it was the head of a hummingbird! My first thought was to blame one of the cats ... how dare they! We have three hummingbird feeders and, as I've mentioned before, our cats have been trained with a loud "NO BIRDS!"  By learning to first avoid the birds in the house, and with the same command repeated many times outdoors, I thought they'd come to avoid outside birds too. It was perhaps only ten feet away from one of our feeders, and I was shocked to see it.  But, which cat did it? How do you scold the perpetrator if you can't be sure who it was?

As we discussed this last night, my husband noted that he has never seen a cat decapitate a bird. Eat its breast meat maybe, or kill it to fling it and play with it, but decapitate? However, an animal that wanted to eat a hummingbird wouldn't eat the long sharp bill. We tossed around the possibility of the small hawk we'd seen, but I dismissed that. He'd been hunting little rabbits and mice, but surely not swift hummingbirds! Today's discovery of him sitting on the railing of the deck about 20 feet away from one of our feeders waiting for a hummer to land changed my mind. He is the culprit! The cats are vindicated.

My husband asked, "Shall I chase him off?" That was a tough question. He's very pretty and he needs to eat too. However, we decided that stalking our hummingbird feeders is not fair game. So, we did chase him away to go back after rodents. Leave our lovely little hummers alone!

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