Given raptor behavior, it can only be expected there is going to be crisis and drama in the valley, for somebody, most of the time. This time it was Little Miss Entitlement, last year’s baby, (“Little MissE”, for short). As mentioned in 5/13’s post “Raptor Reality: A Lesson in Healthy Limits & Boundaries”, An adult raptor’s primary goal, beyond survival, is to raise the current year’s hatchlings to adulthood. This instinct is so strong they will even kill a prior year’s baby for endangering the brood. Well, Little MissE has been pushing her luck for months. Today she drew the short straw.
Little MissE flew into the valley in her blazing glory.
Mamma B screamed a warning to her.
Despite her Mother’s warnings she nonchalantly held her ground and continued to flaunt her presence. Little MissE appears to be furious with her mother. Afterall, Little MissE is all about entitlement. She has been the center of her parents’ universe and is willfully attempting to keep it this way. So when Mamma B decides to escort her out of the valley, Little MissE vented her rage with a vengeance.
Mamma B is a fierce bird, not to be contended with. Raptors mate for life. Mamma B and Pappa B have been together for 12 years. Pappa B’s role is to provide for and protect this year’s family would give his life protecting them. Pappa B showed up on the scene to deal with Little MissE. This did not bode well.
These birds move FAST. In a hostile situation they practically move at the speed of light. From behind the camera, I lost track of what was happening. All I know is, a high-speed chase ensued, and there were dive bomb maneuvers. Next I saw both parents hovering over an area and Little MissE was nowhere to be seen…
(Slideshow of them hovering follows…sorry but all photos from this post display on this)
This went on for over 10 minutes. It was a sad moment in Raptor Reverie history. The babies scurried up the nest wall to have a look.
Baby #1 reported back to Baby#2 what was going on with their big sister Little MissE
Mamma B returned to the nest.
Time moved slowly as we all attempted to come to terms with what happened. A terrible void was felt. Could it be that Little MissE was no more?
Memories of her flooded my mind: Her daily flyby’s as a newly flying baby last year, buzzing within 10 feet of my door, screaming at me to come out and play with her (I would photograph her as she entertained me with her newly mastered airborne antics). The essence of her incredibly funny personality, always putting on a show for the camera, preening elaborately, striking funny poses, seeing if she could sneak up on me. Her sense of entitlement and her adamantly willful nature…a wilfullness that came at a high price.
Nature is a harsh teacher. All lessons, at their foundation really are about evolution and survival of the fittest. Contained within that is a natural order; social mores, behavior that is appropriate and inappropriate. Behavior that is enforced or annihilated, for the sake of increasing their rate of survival. Little MissE was allowed to skirt the valley. She was just not allowed to come within a certain range of the nest. Raptors eat. That is their most driving instinct. Raptors kill live meat to eat. Baby birds in an unattended nest are easy prey…even if it is your own siblings. Mamma B will even scream at Pappa B to leave the nest when he is bringing in food. Maybe the kill instinct is too fresh.
From what I have witnessed, Red-tailed hawk parents still interact with prior year’s offspring. They fly together and interact. (Just the other day I saw Pappa B flying with 2 other hawks and Mamma B was still on the nest. That means it’s the baby from 2009 and Little MissE!) The parents continue to model hunting techniques. (I have since by told by the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program that they do not maintain family affiliations. Once a fledgling can hunt for itself, the parents then view it as competition and visa versa) From what I’ve observed, adult babies are not allowed back in the nest about 3 weeks after their first flight. The family pretty much leaves the valley as the fledglings gain independence and establish new territories. That is the order of things. Little MissE, not by trying to create her own order, but by trying to create her own order that risked the lives of her siblings, resulted in some pretty serious consequences. Death though?…Really?…
Before the reality of that could sink in Mamma B began her “Baby in the Valley!” scream. Could it be? I ran outside to see a very bedraggled but willfully obstinate LITTLE MISS-E!
June 1, 2011 | Categories: Red-Tailed Hawks | Tags: baby birds, baby hawks, bird behavior, birds of prey, chick, drama, eggs, hatchling, Hawk, hawks, nest, nesting hawks, nestling, raptor, raptors, Red-Tail, Red-Tailed Hawk, Redtail, social mores, wildlife | Leave a comment