Wary of Robins

African Pygmy Falcon

About a week ago, Jim and I went to the zoo.  While we were there, we met the magnificent gentleman in the picture above.  He is an African pygmy falcon, and I’m pretty sure that sparrows larger than he is routinely visit our bird feeder.

While we were chatting with his handler, the falcon—I didn’t catch his name, but I think it was something like “Hugh,” so he’ll be Hugh here, today—kept anxious watch around him.  I thought he might be wary of the humans, but this wasn’t the case at all.  Hugh’s handler explained that Hugh worries a lot about robins.  It seems that even though Hugh is half their size, the local robins know a raptor when they see one, and are certain that any moment he’ll fly off on a bloodthirsty rampage in which no robin will be spared.

Hugh does not appreciate this acknowledgement of his perceived ferocity, especially since a robin is way out of his class as potential prey.  Hugh dines on insects, small mice, and smaller birds.  He’s very swift, reaching speeds of forty-five miles an hour and diving at up to twice that.  He brakes using his tail feathers, so he doesn’t transform himself into a puff of feathers and optimism when he hits his target.

I would have been excited to see Hugh at any time, but since one of the characters in Wolf’s Search is a small falcon, I found this up close and personal time very useful.  True, Farborn is a merlin, so he’s a bit larger than Hugh, but who am I to scoff at serendipity?

For those of you who are saying to yourself, “Why does the name Farborn sound familiar?” I’ll add that Farborn appears as a character in Wolf’s Blood.  His role is small but crucial.  In Wolf’s Search, he’s still coming to terms with the ramifications of those events.

Now I’m off to continuing grooming the manuscript of Wolf’s Search…  Catch you later!

4 Responses to “Wary of Robins”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    New Zealand has a native falcon (and some introduced falcons as well). We went to a zoological park where we were introduced to the falcons. The handler had worked with falcons for many years and he had no illusions about them — “They have no recognisable emotions,” he told us. “I know them well, I’ve raised them from the moment they left the egg, They are motivated by food and by prey, nothing else. They know me, they recognise me, but they have no feelings for me. Prey is all that matters to them…”

    Some people in the audience took exception to this. Surely the close nature of the relationship between the handler and the bird means that they must have feelings for you? “No,” said the handler, “there’s no emotional connection at all.”

    And he should know.

    The falcon on his wrist flew off and caught a mouse. Says it all really. But goodness me, they are such magnificent birds. So handsome, so elegant, so beautiful. So cold and so emotionless…


  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    I really like birds of prey…from a distance🙂

  3. John C Says:

    I was introduced to Nagel’s paper “What is it like to be a bat?” a few years ago, but I can’t remember a time I didn’t try to put myself in the place of animals I encountered.
    I’ve been working my way through an article about the interior lives of elephants as exemplars of the animal kingdom: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/do-elephants-have-souls I haven’t finished it yet, but think you might enjoy it.

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