Death of a pigeon: an East Van moment
When I saw the dead pigeon on the sidewalk, I didn’t think anything of it. When I saw the ripped-open belly and chest, though, I knew this wasn’t a traffic casualty or the victim of an avian aneurysm.
It was lying directly under a large oak tree not far from the intersection of Hastings and Nanaimo streets, in the heart of East Vancouver. And, sure enough, there in the branches above, maybe six metres up, perched a gorgeous, calm-looking bird, which I first took to be a smallish, perhaps juvenile, red-tailed hawk, maybe a light-morph version.
(Now I wonder if it was, in fact, a peregrine falcon, given the smallish size, about 35 centimetres. Colour variations have always been my downfall in my limited experience of bird-watching. Any help, experts?)
[UPDATE: I have been informed by a knowledgeable birder that the raptor in question is (in his opinion, and lacking more detailed photographic evidence, i.e., an actual good picture) a sharp-shinned hawk.]
There was a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalk, mainly kids on their way home from Templeton Secondary School, so I moved the pigeon carcass beside the curb near a parked car, thinking the urban raptor might get a chance to zip down and retrieve its prey in a less crowded spot.
Almost an hour later, walking home with my 12-year-old son, Liam, we saw the patient hunter still waiting in the tree. Its dinner was still awaiting it in the street, as well, although it appeared that some opportunistic, and braver, crows had swooped down to peck at the eyes and some of the innards.
Liam excitedly ran into the house to get his camera, and we snapped the shots you see here (apologies for the quality). Then we gingerly picked up the pigeon with a stick and tossed it over a tall fence into a backyard, where, we reasoned, the hawk (falcon) could have some privacy and finish its meal.
It followed the pigeon almost immediately, and we saw it soar back over the fence a moment later, its now-cold entrée in its talons, heading for a pair of oak trees a block farther north.
Another reminder that you can see wild species in the heart of the city if you just keep your eyes open. And look up once in a while.