Monday, November 20, 2006

Hawks Looking Through Windows

After reading my thoughts in Pale Male and Lola Sit on Linda, John Blakeman sent in some of his own regarding Red-tails facing windows.

Be assured. Neither Lola or Pale Male are facing the windows to peer inside the buildings.

Can they see inside? Just as well as we could, were we perched up there.

But are they interested in what is going on inside these apartments? Not at all. Although it might appear that they are looking in, they aren't. Or at least not for long. Neither bird decided to face the window to peer inside.

Hawkwatchers need to understand that hawks have two foveae in each eye, not one (as in humans and other mammals). It will be recalled from school health or biology classes that the fovea is the small, cell-packed area of the eye where detailed vision is centered. Humans have one fovea, so we can see only a single, central spot of visual clarity. Our hawks, however, have two of these in each eye, one positioned to see forward, as we do, and a second one positioned to see exceptionally well out of the side of the eye.

So, when it appears that Lola is watching someone's afternoon soaps, looking straight into the window, she is not. In fact, she's looking sideways down both directions of the street. She's spotting both the sky and the ground for interesting or threatening new objects that would come into her wide, lateral field of vision.

She might look inside the window for a moment, but only to discern if there is any threat. After that, her attention is behind and beside her, where she must concentrate her thoughts.

I've mentioned this before elsewhere. Don't for a moment think that when our red-tails are sitting quietly and motionless up on a high perch that they are merely passing the time idly. Although the hawks appear to be rather disengaged from everything around them, such is not so. They are mentally noting everything of interest, the flying past of a peregrine high over a street several blocks away, the landing of a flock of pigeons out in the park, the scampering of squirrel across a Central Park lawn, and any number of other faunal activities.

If one of the landed pigeons begins to appear inattentive in rising with the flock when a dog approaches, or if the squirrel stops too far out into the lawn, distant from a tree of refuge, Lola notes it all. Not only that, she's continually processing all of this to determine her most efficient flight off the perch for her next meal, which could be hours away.

Our hawks are contemplative intellectuals, continually surmising the entire landscape. They leave the soaps and other domestic trivialities to what they must regard as a much lesser species, human beings, who can't concentrate, can't stay focused, can't see much, and can't even fly.

Poor us. We watch the soaps.

John Blakeman
(For more thoughts on Pale Male and Lola hanging out together see the comments section of Pale Male and Lola sit on Linda. D.B.)

No comments: