I want to sing like the birds sing. Not worrying about who hears, or what they think Rumi
For those who’ve seen a Black-shouldered Kite food exchange, you’ll agree that the process is highpowered, high speed and high risk.
The male, with mouse, hangs in mid-air while his mate, barrels up to snatch the mouse, usually knocking him about as she passes.
One one occasion, I saw her lock claws over his, and he couldn’t let go of the mouse, and she was not going to release her lunch.
After a bit of struggling it resulted in them tumbling wing over wing, body rotating around body, as they completely out of control plummeted to ground. And she would not let go.
Finally she, being the bigger of the two, gained enough wing control to halt their descent, which left him hanging or rather swaying upside down. Perhaps she relented her release for a milli-second and he was free to drop away and fly off.
I worked with another pair, the male only had one working foot, and he never did food exchange in the air, and I often wondered if he lost the use of his limb in such an incident.
But, I’ve never seen a Spotted Harrier exchange close up. Always they happen far out over the paddocks, two birds fly toward each other, exchange and then they fly apart. The mechanics had eluded me. Until the other day.
A pair of Spotted Harrier are preparing a nest, and in between collecting sticks and grasses, there is time for top up of food.
For a good part of the morning they had been calling back and forth, a bit like the Three Little Pigs building their house.
Then the call changed, much more warble than the shrill call of a bird of prey. “That is strange,”, saith I to EE who was on the other side of the vehicle, “There is a change or something is happening.”
And sure enough she sprang out of the nest tree and headed across the paddock. About then, I caught sight of the male, who stopped and Harrier-like hung in mid air about 50-60 metres from where we were standing.
She then wafted in as a good Harrier would, and they danced about one another in the air for a moment or two, then she raised the wings and ever so gently slipped in under his, and took the mouse in a total surgical move. Simple, almost ballet like. He watched to be sure all was well, and then just slid away. She returned to the treeline to enjoy her snack
Amazing to see the completely different approach to food handling.