THE AMAZING BIRDS OF PREY
The day dawns, the wind blows in all directions, in the meanwhile, the diurnal birds of prey, start their daily routine, flattering, diving and whistling lyrics in the blue skies.
Vultures, hawks and their relations make one large tribe of scavangers, winged carnivores, devouring warriors, monarchs, kings and queens of the firmament.
The aerial masters are the bold, fierce hunters that correspond to the great flesh-eating mammals that prowl the earth. The resemblance in hunting qualities and dispositions between the two orders is striking and impressive. The daily hunting activities are conducted with paragon of efficiency and precision incomparable to any military tactics. The land carnivores kill with their terrible claws, then strangle, tear the flesh and drag the prey with their canine teeth. The aerial carnivores kill with the beak and carry the prey with their talons.
The scientific name for the indomitable sentinels of the aerosphere is “Accipitres”, a word from Latin meaning sharp, swift-flight and action; or “Raptores”, which likens the marauders to robbers, the swift-winged robbers –the winged lions, tigers, cheetahs, foxes, jackals and hyenas.
Men, benefit greatly, as they rely enormously on their day to day efforts to rid the environment of the decaying flesh that would be detrimental to healthy life. Besides getting rid of the mortifying flesh, they are also known for their unceasing battles to protect man against environmental enemies. They are known to be natural censors of rodents and birds that plague, destroy and ravage crops in the farms. The population of venomous reptiles among the top list snakes, are always posing a deadly threat to life, more in particular to man. The bite infects deadly poison into the blood stream that cause quick death in a matter of hours, not only to man but also to an animal.
Gratiously but unknowingly, the birds of prey keep the deadly threat at a distance. The hunters of the air have reduced the number of rodents and snakes in the environment for the greater advantage of man as well as the balance of nature.
A great deal exists, for the lovers of nature to admire in the aerial hunters, the bounty of Mother Nature. The air carnivores have the instinct and intelligence of survival by using their wings, alert eyes, beaks and talons. The natural ability to use wings and fly has inspired man to make an airbus that has enabled him to navigate the airspace. These birds of prey are many, however, let it suffice to mention but a few that have offered man not only inspiration but also wonder, survival of the fittest and the choice of fate by indulging in risky adventures.
The sea is a natural habitat of osprey , that is also known as sea- hawk or fish-eagle. It is a fish bird of prey. The diet consists exclusively of fish. An osprey flies with grace and beauty of its kind, but ends his flight with such a plunge into the sea that an onlooker might fancy it shot dead. It goes down as swiftly as a gannet coming up with its prey, not in its beak but firmly gripped in the talons.
A peregrine falcon is a wonderful bird. Nesting takes place in tall trees and the food consists mainly of birds. He is a terror to other birds. A falcon will chase a bird in the air, seize it then bring it down to the ground or takes it to the nest, a day’s delicious meal.
Falcons have an amazing flight which man cannot equal. The long pointed wings carries the falcon through the air with the speed of a hydro-plane through the water. No aeroplane can compare with it. The veracity of the falcon is one that an aeroplane cannot equal. An aeroplane has an engine with an energy amounting to hundreds of horse power. A falcon though is one bird power, and an aircraft cannot match the somersaults of the falcon in the air. He rises like a lark, soars in the wind and speeds straight like a rushing swift. He then dives out of the sky heights to the earth in one grand plunge like a falling meteor, but always safe and unfailing.
The merlin hawk has a faculty which man after many years of effort has developed in an helicopter. The merlin hangs apparently motionless in the air while searching for prey on the ground. One views the bird as a little living statue that is suspended on high by an invisible power. Mother Nature is the invisible power.
The honey buzzard hunts hives not so much for the honey but in search of grubs stirring in the combs. The hunter tears open the comb, devours all it contains, and if not satisfied, fills up with adult insects. This diet is supplemented with slugs, worms, eggs of birds and small animals that range to the size of rats and mice. Kites are the closest kins of honey buzzard.
The secretary bird, a vulture, is an indigenous inhabitant of the African jungle. The feathers at the back of the head lends an air of intelligence to the long-legged wonder. The long legs of the bird make a football of the venomous snake. The poisonous reptiles constitute a meal that makes life seem to be a paradise to the secretary bird. He supplements the deadliest meal of snakes with tortoise, lizard, rats, mice, birds and baby deer.
The caracara is a South American hawk that is allied to harrier. Caracaras have the twin abilities of using their legs for running on the ground and their wings for soaring in the air. They flock together like wolves in or pack and hunt in company. They feed on offal and carrion. Lammageiers, also known as the bearded vultures are intimately related to caracaras. They are mountain dwellers however, they come down to the plains to hunt for animals, besides, they feed largely on carrion.
In the largely extended family of vultures are the condors of South America. The wings span of a Condor is twelve feet in length, obviously then, the condors are the largest of all the flying birds ,mountain dwellers and intermittent eaters. They descend down on the plateau to feed on carrion. Interestingly, they act the part of slaughter of the aged enfeebled horses, sheep, lambs, calves and dogs incapable of self-defence.
Eagles are the kings of the skies that live to an advanced age of a hundred years. An eagle lacks the subtle, swift-turning flight of the hawks. They can hardly rise straight up from the ground like larks. They are just like aeroplanes and need a long open land or preferably a height from which to take off. The bald eagle also known as the white sea-headed eagle is the national emblem of the United States of America. An eagle has an eye like a telescope which sees the mysteries of the deep on the land and the sea from the lofty heights of the firmament. The sight of the prey, either on the land or in the sea, makes the eagle to swoop with a swift flash, grips the prey not with the hooked beak but with the magnetic-like talons.
Bateleur is a common African eagle. The jungle fires in the savannah grasslands neither threaten nor frighten the African bateleur but summon him to a feast. Knowingly, he follows the jungle fire and snaps reptiles which emerge on flight. He dares to dash with furious haste into the smoke-a choice of fate, death by fierce flames-to snatch up a day’s meal he might otherwise miss.
The Maasai Mara, an extensive national park in Kenya, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The vultures that exist in this savannah grassland are in thousands. They co-exist with their counterparts, the kings and masters of the jungle, lions, tigers and cheetahs. The foxes, jackals, hyenas and vultures watch at a close distance with insatiable appetite while the masters feast on a carcass of a wild beast or any other animal after a slaughter. After their fill of the bite the masters retreat contentedly for a restful nap. The anxiously awaiting foxes, jackals, hyenas and vultures swing into action. They scramble with gluttony for a bite of the remains leaving nothing other than bones. The scene is one of wonder, one that a tourist would regret missing and not taking a video of the spectacle.
The hours that make our span of life are very precious indeed. The aesthetic spirit drives me to invite you in sparing as many as a few hours to come and enjoy the beauty of nature at Maasai Mara.