A while back I wrote about the influx of hawks into Kansas this time of year. I told about watching hawks following combines through a soybean field, snatching up rodents kicked out of hiding by the machines as they lumbered through the fields. The dictionary defines symbiotic (symbiosis) as “The living together of two kinds of organisms to their mutual advantage.” Maybe “symbiotic” is not quite the right word to describe the above scenario, but you have to admit there are times where animals and birds use human activities to their advantage.
For example, years ago I had some peacocks. Any of you who presently own or have ever owned peacocks will agree with me that they can be a real pain in the butt, but while I had those pesky fowl, I had gardens that were absolutely insect-free. They would follow me when I mowed the lawn; back a few feet and on the side of the mower where the grass was discharged, and would turn themselves inside out to be the first to snatch a bug shot out from the mower, especially those big green hoppers I called “katydids.” Symbiotic or not, they knew that when the lawn mower was pushed across the yard, snacks would come their way.
Just this week we stopped to see a friend at a business on a side street smack in the middle of downtown Hutchinson. As we pulled into the parking lot, the large dumpster for the business sat straight ahead of us inside a four-sided enclosure, and perched on the back corner of the enclosure was what appeared to be a hawk decoy, put there to ward off pigeons I presumed. As I stared at the decoy, it swiveled its head around and stared back at me; it was a mature red tailed hawk with a squirrel held firmly in its talons. I was slightly surprised to see a red tailed hawk in downtown Hutchinson, but since there were no houses or trees for several blocks around, I was really puzzled as to where the hawk had managed to snag the squirrel.
Our friend there was not surprised to hear about the hawk and added some details that explained where the hawk had likely found the squirrel. The business is very near the railroad, and this time of the year there always seems to be dabs of grain strewn along the tracks, evidently from rail cars moving wheat, soybeans, corn and milo. Pigeons, squirrels and birds come from all over that part of town to feast on the grain, making for a virtual smorgasbord for stealthy predators like the hawk. He told us he once observed a hawk catch a pigeon nearby as it snacked on the grain. Again, maybe this is not really a true symbiotic relationship, but the squirrels and pigeons know the grain will be there, and the predators know the pigeons and squirrels will be there too, all thanks to man.
And speaking of hawks, November 8 – 13, the North American Falconers Association (NAFA) will have its annual convention/field meet at the Atrium Hotel in Hutchinson. They are expecting nearly 200 falconers to attend and who bring nearly 300 hawks and falcons. Falconers will come from all over North America, Canada and Mexico, and from as far away as the U.K., Austria, Germany and Australia. Even though many falconers will be out hunting with their hawks and falcons, there will always be falconers at the hotel who will be glad to talk with you about their sport and show you their birds. So check out this get-together and check out the sport of falconry as yet another way to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]