Stretching after a run, I noticed a feather float down to the ground from the tree above me. Pretty, I thought. Then another and another fell. A few more seconds and a literal (albeit soft) rain of feathers was floating down around me.
This is weird. I stopped mid stretch and walked around under the tree. Looking up, I saw a hawk pulling apart a pigeon, feathers puffing with each jerk of its beak. It spied me spying it, and paused in its ravenous ripping to stare down at me, head cocked to one side.
What a poignant contrast between the soft and really quite beautiful downward drift of the numerous feathers and the sharp beak and jerking motions of the bird as it tore apart its likely freshly caught fodder.
I was running in the grounds of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and didn’t have my cellphone (or a camera) with me, so I didn’t get a photograph. (Gah!) I can’t remember the exact size of the bird, but from my angle (looking up from almost directly under the branch it was feasting on), it looked at most a third bigger than the pigeon it was eating.
So, using my awesome powers of deduction and (the most reputable source online ever) Wikipedia, I’ve come up with a shortlist.
- Crested Serpent Eagle A medium sized bird of prey that lives in tropical Asia, including Taiwan. According to this source, this eagle is a commonly-sited Taiwanese resident. This bird sounds so lovely I simply WANT to say that I saw it.
- Eastern Marsh Harrier A migratory bird that winters in Taiwan. It prefers open spaces and marshlands and preys on small mammals, birds and frogs. OK, so the Taiwan National Fine Art Museum isn’t exactly a marsh (well, not at all, really) and I’m not sure that pigeons could be called “small” birds, but I still feel that this little harrier could fit the bill.
- Crested Goshawk This small raptor likes to hang out in trees and is apparently secretive. Rare, you say? I like the sound of that! In the right circles, I could say “Yes, I once saw a rare Crested Goshawk in a park in Taiwan. Imagine that!” and really impress people.
- Besra Medium-sized and living throughout the Asia region, it relies on surprise to catch it prey. What caught my eye with this bird is that in winter, it heads into open, cultivated land.
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk This bird winters over in parts of Asia and usually plucks the feathers from larger quarry. There’s a picture of this bird with a pigeon in its claws! It’s holding it on the ground, though, and not tearing it apart, but the bit about feather plucking is promising.
I also stumbled across a story of a pair of Peregrine Falcons living among the high rises of Kaohsiung City. Clearly this bird likes urban living. Maybe this is what I spotted?
I just shot off an email to Birding in Taiwan asking if they could help me to identify the bird. Fingers crossed! I’ll update you if they get back to me.
Oh, and I just remembered, this is the second bird of prey I’ve spotted in Taichung City. When I was running in the botanical gardens I almost got hit by a hawk/harrier/kite/EAGLE-like bird that was chasing down a heron!