The Hawk—Nature's Air Force
from the book, "Our Fascinating Earth"

Our Fascinating Earth

The Hawk—Nature's Air Force

The graceful hawk is one of the most beneficial of living predators because of its effective performance in maintaining the balance of nature. It preys on fast—breeding creatures such as mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, and insects. If the population growths of these animals were to go uncontrolled, it is not science fiction, but grim reality, that eventually they could inherit the earth. So efficient is the hawk that systematic studies have shown that a single hawk killed more than fifty meadow mice on one—quarter of an acre in thirty days.

The hawk also preys on fast—breeding small birds such as sparrows, chickadees, and numerous other species. Without the hawk and related predators to control their numbers these fast breeders would eventually become a dangerous nuisance and perhaps even a national hazard.

From time to time problems have arisen with unchecked population growths of such animals as various species of rodents. When investigated, it is usually shown that the local hawk population has been decimated by overzealous hunters. Thus, with little to keep the rodents in check, a population explosion occurs. For man to inadvertently disrupt the balance of nature is, of course, nothing new.

The ease with which the hawk takes its prey illustrates perfect coordination of eye, wing, and talons. Hawks have been observed to swoop over a pond and pick off a moorhen without even making a splash. They have been seen plucking lizards from tree trunks with nary a pause in flight. They are able to capture small birds in flight so swiftly that no act of seizure can be detected.

Recently a scientist observed the split—second timing of this predator. In this case the hawk was in pursuit of a quail. The hawk was definitely gaining when the quail suddenly dropped like a rock toward a bush. The hawk then hurled itself through the air, flung its body beneath the prey upside down, and received the falling quail in its talons. Righting itself, the hawk flew away with its prize.