Taking Matters Into Her Own Talons

Did anyone else catch awesome episode on PBS’ Nature program called, “Surviving Winter on Ellesmere Island?”  One of the segments followed a pair of gyrfalcons that were tending to their two young chicks high on a cliff. Apparently, the male gyrfalcon is supposed to hunt for the food, while the female tends to the nest. Well, this particular male gyrfalcon was what you could call lazy. Instead of hunting for food for his chicks, which were obviously hungry and getting weaker by the day, he was spied napping and preening more often than not.

To me, birds of prey always look mad but I swear you can see the female’s annoyance with her partner. If she had one, I’m sure a rolling pin or frying pan would have flown in his direction. But she keeps her dignity and flies off in search of food. She catches a cute arctic hare (moments like this make me repeat the “circle of life” mantra). She can barely fly the offering back to the nest – you can see her panting with exhaustion—but she finally manages to feed her hungry chicks. So she starts going off and acquiring more hares, while her partner comes back with his meager offerings of a lemming or two (tiny rodents but equally cute; again, “circle of life”). The narrator points out that the same pair lost their chicks the year before, presumably to starvation. There was no way this hen was going to sit by and watch that happen again.

Now I can’t help but feel guilty for those mornings when I’ve slept in and gotten dressed before feeding my flock, especially when they do their “Where’s breakfast?” calls. It’s not like I have to trek miles into the arctic for their food; it’s just a scoop away. Perhaps Mr. Gyrfalcon would prefer that, too.

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