The soft cry of the wind could be heard among the barren Poplars and kingly Cottonwoods. It swept through the trunks, over the dried grasses of the summer which was now long gone, and between the leafless branches of the trees. But the wind bore wings. Dark and powerful wings with feathers as soft as moonlight: the wings of a Northern Goshawk. With majestic grace, the raptor sped through the labyrinth of trees, a limp form hanging from his feathered limbs and a raucous mob of followers hanging at his tail. These tormentors would not give in; these Black-billed Magpies in stubborn pursuit, squawking and teasing the prince among birds. American Crows, too, had joined the party, to the greater annoyance of the majestic hawk who could have easily slain one on the spot if his talons had not already been occupied. So, the raptor did his best to dodge and duck here and there through the poplars with a pestering horde of feathered fussers following close behind. Finally, the goshawk gave in, and neatly landing among the tree trunks, began his feast.
But lo! There above the feeding raptor, in a cottonwood, landed all of those cheeky magpies and in a nearby tree perched two crows, observing the scene below with much interest. Their victim, though, paid no more heed to the obnoxious, but intelligent gazes and without hesitation began his meal. Suddenly, in the midst of his meal, the goshawk glanced up from his feeding and beheld a black and white form a few feet directly before him! One of the bolder of the magpies had dared to approach him and the others were beginning to cautiously hop from branch to branch, lower and lower towards the feeding raptor. Terribly perturbed and irritated, the goshawk grasped his prey and launched himself into the air. A chorus of loud voices arose with him, and the pursuit was on once again.
This is a sketch I drew after having a good look at a feeding goshawk which I had sighted. It shows the characteristics that separate the Northern Goshawk from the similarly-coloured osprey. Unlike the osprey, this impressive raptor has a dark cap and feathered legs. In flight, the goshawk has relatively short, rounded wings in contrast to the osprey’s long wings. A very large bird of prey.
The Black-billed Magpie is a Corvid, a family that encompasses, but is not limited by, crows, ravens, and jays, and all in this family bear the characteristic of high intelligence. Fond of pestering raptors and warning the prey of the hunter’s presence, these striking, iridescent black and white magpies are the tricksters of the city. They have a black breast, black wings, tail, head and bill with a white belly, sides, and patch on their wings. The rump is also black as are the under-tail coverts.
Here in summer, gone in winter, that’s our bright-eyed American Crow. In the winter, they are replaced by the larger Common Raven, but in the warm months, the opportunistic crows rule the roost. Though not technically a migratory bird, crows seem to prefer warm climates and move south when the cold months arrive. They are pure black birds, large and smart, loving to play, fond of mobbing raptors, and showing off their considerably impressive flying skills.