June 10, 2007

The Sparrowhawk Red in Beak and Claw

Helen Macdonald has posted some new stuff--go read it. Here she is on sparrowhawks:

I mean it seriously when I say sparrowhawks are a difficulty. They are for me, anyway: they pull my moral assumptions through hoops. Painfully. It's all very well to know that nature is red and tooth and claw. It’s not difficult to feel that human morals have no place in nature. But even so, it’s not pleasant to witness a sparrowhawk eating a shrieking, live starling, piece by piece, on your patio floor. It is horrible. And it is salutory. Partly because moral conflicts are interesting. And partly for other reasons.

Terminology note: Some Americans call the kestrel (Falco sparverius) a sparrowhawk too, not to be too confusing. But it is more of an open-country bird. In behavior, the sharp-shinned hawk comes nearer, I think. (Stop acting like you know anything about raptors--Ed.)


Steve Bodio said...

Glad to help (:-)) A Sharpshin IS a Sparrowhawk, many of which exist on all continents-- a small Accipiter, bird- eating, with thin legs and big yellow eyes, often changing to orange or red later. The Sharpie is Accipiter striatus, the slightly larger Spar Accipiter nisus. Our Cooper's are bigger and stouter and not "true" Spars.

Pluvialis makes me not want to write anything about the bird again-- what would be the point? Brilliant!

Chas S. Clifton said...

Maybe this is a good reason to get away from the BLANK-hawk nomenclature altogether? (sparrowhawk, pigeon hawk, etc.)

Steve Bodio said...

Well, I don't mind the original Sparrowhawk, named because it eats sparrows-- but Pigeon hawk and Duck hawk for perfectly good Merlins and Peregrines is silly!