As I was riding home from work this evening, the following incredibly awesome things happened: I turned down Park Street from Congress in the middle of Portland, and I noticed a huge bird flying right next to me. And THEN I noticed that a pigeon was struggling in this huge bird's talons.
I shouted, "whoa!" and almost missed the stop sign by the West End Deli. Then I managed to stop, point, and shout "Whoa! Whoa!" a couple more times.
The cars stopped at the intersection were oblivious to the birds, but I suppose I should be grateful that they weren't altogether oblivious to the very distracted cyclist in their midst. I had guessed that the bird on top was a falcon of some sort, based on its predatory behavior, the mottled stripes on its tailfeathers, and its sharp-beaked profile it showed when it landed next to the Greek Orthodox Church a block away. After watching it some more, I think it was a peregrine falcon, a species formerly protected under the Endangered Species Act [edit: I was wrong. See note above].
I safely crossed the intersection and approached carefully to get a closer look from behind a screen of parked cars. While I watched, the pigeon in the
She definitely wasn't as enthusiastic as I was, but when I came back a few minutes later after a rushed attempt (unsuccessful) at charging my camera battery, she and another man were watching the feeding frenzy from their stoop. He'd taken some cell phone pictures, and might send me some by e-mail.
At that time, another husband-and-wife pair of passerby took the pictures below, and subsequently e-mailed them to me. Thank you, Mike and Alice!
I also returned about fifteen minutes later after a more patient recharging of my camera battery. As I expected, the
I presume that those little seeds had been the pigeon's last meal. According to National Geographic, "Peregrine falcons are formidable hunters that prey on other birds (and bats) in mid-flight. Peregrines hunt from above and, after sighting their prey, drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200 miles an hour." [EDIT 3/26- this little factoid isn't really relevant to this post anymore, since we're talking about a hawk now, but I'm going to leave it in here on account of the fact that a 200 MPH-speeding bird is damned impressive]
I like to think about how one of the last things that this eyeball pictured above ever saw was a pair of talons closing in on it at a speed of 200 miles per hour. [EDIT - since this was a cooper's hawk, not a falcon, those talons probably weren't going that fast, so so much for that fantasy. Still, they were definitely going fast enough for all practical purposes]