The Rat on the Hood

Kyra Gottesman recounts one of the worst days of her life. She had to put down her aging and ailing dog, then had a close encounter with a hawk and its intended lunch.

But, I figured the worst was over. How could this day get any more awful?

Well, I’ll tell ya how…

I had dropped Olivia off at the barn to ride and was heading to the doctor’s down Palermo Road and was just about to make a right on to Lone Tree when a hawk came soaring up out of the field to my left. No big deal, just something majestic to notice but then – thunk! splat! There on the hood of my truck was a mangled but still quite alive rat. I hit the brakes. I stared in wonder and then, I burst in to tears. Whoosh! Shriek! Squawk! Whoosh! The hawk was furious and letting me know it in no uncertain terms as it swooped and dove at my truck.

So now, I was stopped dead in the middle of the road, sitting in my truck sobbing with a half dead squealing loudly rodent on the hood of my truck and being dive bombed by a hawk. And my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day got even worse.

You need to go read the rest.

If a hawk dropped a fresh rat on the hood of my vehicle, I’d be conflicted… do I toss the rat back to the hawk who caught it, or tuck it away to bring home to my birds? Either way, I’d count that as making toward a good day for me. I’ve gotten used to the sound of PO’d redtails… Rusty tends to bring that out in the resident birds wherever we go. Of course, her tendency to steal stuff they’ve caught or completely ignore their vocal territorial claims contributes, I’m sure. Rusty has this conviction that even though she is smaller than the female redtails that she tangles with from time to time that the rest of her pack has her back. That would be us. And sure enough, if we come close to Rusty, that about does it for other birds being willing to go a round or two with her.

There was one time when we let Rusty loose in a field close to dusk. She picked out a high pole as a perch and was staring forward into the field, looking for anything that might break cover. I was watching Rusty when I noticed that some distance behind her there was a great horned owl making a beeline approach for her. GHOs are bad news; they are one common bird that is pretty easily capable of taking a mature Harris hawk hen, especially with a silent sneak attack. So I start running toward Rusty’s perch, yelling and waving my arms around. That worked; the GHO changed course and decided that somewhere else would be a good place to be. Rusty never noticed the GHO, but just looked down at me like, “What’s your problem? The prey items won’t come out if you’re making all that racket!”

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “The Rat on the Hood

  • 2007/06/27 at 3:05 pm
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    Hi — was most surprised to find “me” on your web site. have to tell ya, the rat wasn’t the first thing a hawk has dropped on me … years ago, had one drop a snake — can’t tell you how fast i closed the sun roof that day! regards, Kyra

  • 2007/06/28 at 7:17 am
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    I feel left out. I don’t recall even our hawks dropping things on our vehicles.

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