Raptors: The Curious Nature of Diurnal Birds of Prey by Keith L. Bildstein
I was dancing up a storm; wiggling my nether parts, flinging my appendages in the air and over my head, whirling and twirling and uttering whistles and clicks. Oh yes, she noticed me—and after a little flirting she came to me. My display had entranced her. I brought her food; she loved fish and I gave her the best fish I could catch.
And then we mated. Indeed we mated twice an hour for well over a month which meant we did “it” about 1,488 times. I have been with my love for 12 years now and we have many offspring. We’ve lived in the same location for the entire dozen years.
You might want to know how I regenerate my sexual desire each mating season. It’s simple, I hibernate my sexual organ by bringing it inside me until it’s time to perform again and then a whole new cycle begins. I am like a new being! Bring on those thousand copulations!
The above is the basic pattern of some raptor mating rituals. In the human world, if it had been me wiggling my nether parts, I would not have won the girl; I’d have been bounced from the nightclub.
Keith L. Bildstein, the Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, has written a fascinating book on raptors titled, appropriately enough: Raptors: The Curious Nature of Diurnal Birds of Prey.
Most birders probably know that “diurnal” means daylight which is when most raptors hunt, although some raptors, such as those Peregrines living in cities will even hunt at night because of how well-lit human habitats are. Of the over 300 species of raptors, the overwhelming majority are, by and large, hunters and killers.
Just think of the Osprey and the Peregrine and the various hawks that we see quite frequently in the Northeast United States riding the air currents. These birds aren’t soaring in the air and skimming the waters and wildly chasing songbirds through the woods for a pleasant day of harmless fun. They’re hunting because they are hungry.
Raptors have color vision, just as we do, but they are also able to see ultraviolet light which allows them to hunt rodents whose urine and feces reflect such wave lengths. (Play ominous music here and add an ominous voice over.) “Anytime a rodent does his doody, it could be his last.”
Many raptors are monogamous, although some will cheat on their spouses, while still others are promiscuous. The bigger ones tend to be monogamous; the smaller ones tend to be promiscuous. The bigger ones also have smaller broods so it takes two to handle the lives and deaths of their young ones.
Raptors have a long history with humans, some of which was favorable (think of King Richard the falcon-hearted and all those other falconers) contrasted with the tremendous slaughter bounty hunters and farmers wreaked. Then add to that the near-wiping out of many species because of our use of insecticides. Luckily, we have saved those falcons most endangered by our folly.
This book is worth a careful read. You will find the presentation somewhat academic at times, but overall it is an excellent work by a man who knows his subject. (Those 1488 times! I’d be dead in a day.)
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at book stores.