Life on the Flyway

Kansas City lies under one of the main flyways that migratory birds follow as they follow the seasons north and south. As a result, we get lots of cool birds moving through the area, adding to the many similarly cool birds who call this region home year-round. For example, the park next door to my home becomes bluebird heaven for a couple of months every year, and we also have a few pairs of scissor-tailed flycatchers who routinely nest along the margins of a vacant lot nearby.

My most interesting bird experience to date was just a couple of days ago, while my daughter was having her flute lesson. Her music teacher lives in a woodsy KC suburb, Overland Park, Kansas, and a family of Cooper’s Hawks have taken up residence in her back yard–four birds, a mother and three adolescents that look pretty close to being able to go out on their own. I watched them for about thirty minutes as they moved from tree to tree, and a couple spent some time on the ground under a leafy overhang, disassembling a small rodent. Ick.

Suddenly, a squirrel emerged from a bush and began hip-hopping his way along an open fencerow. I’m thinking this must be either the world’s bravest or stupidest squirrel. In a heartbeat, the four hawks swooped out and converged on his position, oddly pulling up short and perching in the surrounding trees at about a five-yard radius. Perhaps they were confused by the little guy’s bravado, or maybe they were negotiating how best to divide their tasty treat. The squirrel then sat upright, flicking his tail and chirping in the general direction of the closest hawk, as if to say, “You want a piece of this? Come on!” or something. All he was missing was a little hat and sword, and he would have fit right into the Narnia books or The Tale of Despereaux.  After a few more moments of defiant tail-flicking, he bounced into a tree at the end of the fencerow and disappeared.  I have no idea whether the hawks got him later, but I’ve a feeling he’s not long for this world.

If he ever gets a sword, I guarantee he’s taking a few tail feathers with him.


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