Wildbuzz: Hawk in a hen harem
Pugnacious roosters seem to look for a “pangaa”, rarely swerving from the path of confrontation even though the perceived adversary may be a giant-like human. Those who know the jungles will draw comparison to the massive, loner, irascible wild boar who will not hesitate to charge at a human or cross swords with even the tiger. Hence, the salience of roosters to the ‘kill or be killed’ outlawed cock-fight betting.
*For those of us familiar with rural life and backyard poultry, the odd rooster of particular breeds and known for combative qualities could cross our path with a vengeance. It will lunge repeatedly at its adversary by deploying not its beak but formidable legs, claws and spurs. Pugnacious roosters seem to look for a “pangaa”, rarely swerving from the path of confrontation even though the perceived adversary may be a giant-like human. Those who know the jungles will draw comparison to the massive, loner, irascible wild boar who will not hesitate to charge at a human or cross swords with even the tiger. Hence, the salience of roosters to the ‘kill or be killed’ outlawed cock-fight betting.
A fox in a chicken coop implies one-sided plunder but a hawk in a hen harem could result in quite the opposite! Evidence of the rooster’s combat proficiency comes also from videos that showcase their propensities to take on hawks/falcons marauding on backyard poultry. Vigilant roosters keep an eye on the sky and let out a peculiar cluck sending hens diving for the proverbial bunker. Soon enough, a raptor dives in from the sky like a strafing aircraft.
Shasta Schlitt of Kansas, US, posted a video of her rooster named ‘Jay’ relentlessly taking on a Cooper’s hawk. The hawk, equally pugnacious in his attacks on Jay’s harem of hens. Whenever that hawk came down upon a hen, the rooster would rush to her defence. The undeterred hawk went the third time for a white hen but this time the rooster pinned down the marauder and killed it with brutal ‘panjaas’. The hawk, being young and inexperienced, had been far too aggressive in taking on Jay, three times its size. Jay survived with puncture wounds from the hawk’s talons. The famed hunter had become the hunted.
Schlitt’s video drew loud comments of ‘Jay’s the macho man’. Retaliation came with accusations of Jay’s heroism being manipulated to bolster narratives of a “toxic masculinity!” It was left to a hen to deliver a clinching rejoinder. Beth Carruthers reported how a large Maran rooster had hidden in the bushes when a mighty Peregrine falcon swooped on poultry. While the debauched rooster cowered and crowed from safety, a Legbar hen stepped out and battled the baffled falcon!
Vulture Man of India
* Critically-endangered vultures were served for decades by Dr. Vibhu Prakash Mathur, the raptor scientist who came to be known as “Vulture Man of India”. Having worked on vultures since the 1980s, it was in 2001 that the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), in alliance with the Indian and UK Governments and global NGOs, anchored a conservation project to save scavengers from extinction. However, vultures will miss their tireless champion, also a national award winner. Upon reaching 65 and after a service of 42 years, Dr. Prakash retired from the BNHS in the rank of deputy director.
“Age must pass as fresh blood enters. I have been associated with Vibhu for nearly 25 years. From the point when we had no clue to captive breeding, Vibhu’s team undertook pioneering work and so many chicks were reared under his leadership. We arrived at the point where we have had to reduce breeding. Vibhu should be bestowed with an international award. Along with the BNHS, it is the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Jemima Parry Jones, governments etc that rendered a yeoman’s service to vultures,” India’s pre-eminent conservationist, Dr. Asad Rahmani, told this writer.
Dr. Prakash’s wife, Nikita, a BNHS research fellow, has been by his side all these tough years. She will take over the Pinjore centre from Dr. Prakash who has been appointed “Advisor” to the national vulture programme. “My regret is that due to the persisting presence of killer veterinary drugs and lack of funding, we have not been able to launch the introduction of captive vultures into the wilderness. We have only managed experimental release of a few White-rumped vultures. My life’s work would be realised when the environment is free of killer drugs, captive vultures fly to freedom and breed in the wilderness,” Dr. Prakash told this writer.