Pigeons and doves are quite clever creatures. You only have to watch the pigeons in Trafalgar Square casually avoiding peoples’ feet, to know that they’re adept at assessing risk. So, watching a Cape Turtle Dove in the Selous one day being pursued by a small and determined looking eagle, I was intrigued to see what would happen.
Birds that are habitually preyed upon by other birds in the air, get to understand that one of the safest places you can be, if there’s a predator around, is on the ground. It’s simple logic, because the attacking bird can’t afford to injure itself by flying into something solid at very high speed.
So it was a sensible move, then, when the dove pulled a very steep turn and landed in the middle of a thick acacia bush right beside our car. The only problem was that the bird it was being chased by, the African Hawk Eagle (which is a tenacious little chap and not easily persuaded to change his mind) had clearly established missile lock before the dove landed.
Its response to the nifty bit of flying done by the dove, was pragmatic to say the least. It simply elected to join the dots between itself and the dove in the quickest possible manner. It arrived at the bush with the force of a penalty kick taken by Cristiano Ronaldo and, with a noise like someone slamming a car door, flew straight through the (really quite prickly) bush, and up to the (now running out of options) dove.
Needless to say, things didn’t get any better for the dove, and the only consolation would have been that, contrary to the Red Baron-style derring do that the eagle displayed on its way into the bush, its exit (lunch grasped awkwardly in the talons of one foot) involved a lot of roughled feathers, quite abit of huffing and puffing and a good dose of embarrassment. Eagles are far better adapted to spectacular feats of forward flight, than backwards walks through bushes.
This little incident lasted a minute, if that, but the unexpectedness of it and the sheer drama it involved, always comes to mind when I hear people say they find birds...rather boring.