Tag Archives: Raptors

Help! I Just Killed the Bird of Paradise


In my back yard is a beautiful oak tree. I purchased it, planted it, nourished it, and pruned it to its present magnificence. The lower limbs are trimmed high enough so I can mow without getting a branch in the eye.

From the Ramada outside of my humongous sliding glass door, I can see the two bird feeders, one hummingbird feeder and spike board that I put orange and apple slices on to feed the, pair plus one, Gila woodpeckers.

I started this hobby last winter during the extremely irregular cold that fell on Tucson. Food is energy and I like to have the birds around, so I fed them. I bought a book and started to identify each species that came into the yard. My wife even got into the act and tells me “I (speaking for herself) must have had thirty doves under the tree. I had all three Gila Woodpeckers, a Cardinal, a Hummingbird and that Pyro all at once,” although she never fills the feeders!

Winter changed to summer, and the local plants went to seed. I took my feeders down for the summer so the young quail and the young of everything else would not depend on me and learn to feed naturally.

See! I’m a truly caring and deliberate person. I have a conscience about nature and think of myself as a fairly good Earth steward.

Please hang with me. I’m eventually going to make a point!

Summer has turned to fall. I’ve retired from work after fifty-two years and have time to put the feeders back out and maintain them. Each day, when I’m not writing, I enjoy the chaos at the feeders. The birds that feed on the feeders kick seeds on the ground and the doves and quail bare the ground, walking in circles and chasing each other. I have a menagerie!

All my little chickees (baby talk) are getting plump and colorful. They even scold me when their feeders are empty. Now I’m obligated! They sit right there in that tree not four feet away and are on those feeders the second I walk away. My expense has gone from fifteen dollars a month to thirty, and they expect me to spend more because they keep inviting their relative’s relatives.

One day, I was sitting at the breakfast bar looking toward the patio door. A Coopers hawk swooped in and nailed one of the doves on the ground. It all happened quickly. There was an explosion of wings and feathers and forty of forty one made it out of there. I’d been noticing piles of feathers in the grass for a while now.

I moved slowly to the door edge and took a picture with the digital while Mr. Coopers was eating breakfast. When he was done, he took a drink from the water bowl on the ground, wiped his lips off and flew away. I got to witness another nature thing. Hooray for me!

The lawn needed mowing, so I cleaned up the feathers and other leftovers with the lawnmower, refilled the feeders, and went about my business.

About noon that same day, I only had the screen door closed; I heard the explosion of wings again. As I peeked around the corner of the door, a Peregrine falcon was perched on my fence overlooking the yard. He sat still for a few moments, realized he’d scared all the food away, and then silently glided down to the water dish and stepped right in it with both feet and just stood there. I think he was cooling himself. I could see a metal band on one leg which reminded me that raptors are protected.

So, I got to thinkin’ and realized what I’ve done is created a smorgasbord for, who knows, how many different predators! And those chubby little birds are probably spreading diseases amongst themselves bathing in their drinking water and fighting over the food that’s beginning to break me.

It all started because I was kind hearted.

BUT I SCREWED WITH MOTHER NATURE, and now I’m paying the price!

I feel a little guilty about all of this! Should I stop feeding the little chickees, so I don’t feed the predators? Should I keep feeding the birds, so I get to see the raptors too? What’s more important, me, my feelings or them?

Of all the answers I received, this person answered my question wonderfully. He said “what I witnessed in my back yard was going to happen somewhere near anyway! Enjoy the nature happening ‘right in your own backyard’. Enjoy seeing those predators up close, doing what predators do in the normal cycle of life.”


Lickety-split, the River Road Lizard


If you don’t believe this story, come ride the River Road Bike Path with me just before summer starts, when the Kamikazi lizards are out!

Lickety-split, the River Road Lizard

Spread eagle on the top of a dark rock, Lickety-split absorbed the heat of the rock on his belly as the rays of the sun heated his back. Soon, he would be warm enough to face another speedy day along the River Road Bicycle Path.

Admiring lizards paused a moment before they passed this rock. They pay homage to this living legend. Some would stop, and give the five push-up salute. Some of the larger species would flash red, crimson, purple and blue as if having their best suit on, while passing the immortal’s rock.

Why the ceremony, and what is the River Road Bicycle Path you ask?

The path is an asphalt trail that follows the curvy banks of the Rillito River in Tucson. The Rillito River is a “dry river” eleven months out of the year. Water only flows during the monsoon season when the rains fall hard and fast. It’s the water drainage for the city, and surrounding area.

Twelve months out of the year, walkers, skaters, and bicyclists flow on this river’s banks. They flow in both directions at the same time (on both banks in most places). Sometimes, they flow over the river on bridges to access family parks on either side.

Past the ironwood trees, past the mesquite trees, and creosote bushes, their energy flows as a form of human time travel. There is a buffer here. It’s a trail to the Wild West in one direction and a path to the rush of the city in the other direction, each piece of time doing what is necessary to survive while within sight of each other. Tucsonans like it that way.

Overhead, circle the raptors, ravens, and vultures, some waiting for a victim to emerge from under a bush and run into the open sand between that shade and the shade of the next. Some attack savagely with talons stretched and a wild eye. Some circle patiently, waiting for the leftovers.

The pomp is for a champion. He’s the survivor of years, dodging the raptors, ravens, roadrunners, and cannibal lizards. He is a survivor of his exuberant youth. The indestructible days, and the days when “daredevil dodging” bicycle wheels was the way to show off his speed and skill.

The players of the game waited by the side of the path, poised as if ignoring or unaware of the on-coming peddler, then, at the last moment, dart in front of the moving bicycle wheels.

I don’t play this game. I’m more of a Horny Toad. I lay buried in the sand, pay homage to no one, and let the speed of my tongue do the talking. This gives me vantage to be an unseen observer, and I can tell you, I’ve seen the demise of many of those Kamikaze lizards.

Occasionally, some do get flattened by a wheel. All bike riders do not hold the line as expected, and navigate to try and avoid the darting gamer. This, changes the dynamic of the game, the assumption being the bicycle operator isn’t fast enough to react. It’s not true, some are. The darters that find this out, can’t compensate, and don’t live to tell about it. The ones that lose their tail blame it on a roadrunner, or snake, too embarrassed to tell the truth. The extremely proud claim they dropped the extra weight for more speed. There lies a perverted truth!

Lickety-split lost his tail once. He was so surprised and embarrassed; he vowed he would never let it happen again. Once he realized that the vultures and ravens were carrying off the squashed bodies of his buddies, his pledge to himself was reinforced.

In his youth, he thought everyone always succeeded in their daring quest. His young mind thought the ones that disappeared had just moved on. There were never any bodies to prove otherwise!

Lickety decided to change the parameters of the game. He would run parallel to the path and race the wheels. Sometimes he would have to go around a rock, over a Horny Toad (ahem!), under a bush, or up a tree, but he never lost another tail. This new strategy didn’t seem to bother his love life. There was an abundance of females because the male mortality rate was so high. There will always be those that know better, and haven’t learned, or will never learn.

This was a win, win!

Lickety-split far outlived most of the others born in his time. He’d produced several generations and taught his descendants the secret of his longevity. His progeny lived so long, they morphed into an advanced level of maturity never before seen for his species. Their bodies advanced to a higher state of perfection, and their colors became more regal, setting them apart from all the other lizards.

Lickety-split’s family became so different; the University of Arizona investigated the reports of this unique lizard, and gave his family a sub-species class of their own, Pararapidii lickedy-splitus, thus immortalizing him and them forever.

“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” “Speaking of sticking…..there’s an ant.” “Ahhh!”

Now, spread-eagled on his hot throne, Lickety-split surveyed all that came to pay homage, was warmed up, and waiting for the next Schwinn.

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