[Tweeters] Re: Do Raptors Really Pose a Threat to Pets?

Michael Price loblollyboy at gmail.com
Sat Jan 30 00:57:30 PST 2010

Hi Tweets

Dave Parent writes:

>I have never received a first-hand, eyewitness report of

a raptor attack on a cat or small dog.

and further:

>Most cats are just too big, quick and dangerous for raptors to

tangle with unless they are starving or otherwise desperate.

Dave, I'm happy to provide you with your first account, then. A late warm
summer evening, London, Ontario, in 1956. A stocky old ginger tom walking
between two rows of pine trees besides the Thames River. A Great Horned Owl
drops out of the trees onto the cat. Cat immediately dead---as in before
hits ground---presumably of massive trauma as cat is immediately inert and
there is no struggle. Bird can't fly off with its prey, drags it beneath one
of the pine trees and starts to pluck its fur and feeds for about ten
minutes before being spooked by another human and flies off. I hang around
until it's dark but the bird doesn't return to the cat's carcass. I'd like
to hang around longer, but, hey, I'm just a kid and have to get home or I'm
gonna be in real trouble.

Regarding weights. Relative weights may be misleading: what often matters
more is the kinetic energy imparted by the raptor upon its prey. An example.
I've seen a male and female Peregrine Falcon awake and alert on the posts of
a chainlink fence at Iona Island when at the base of the fence posts a
couple of meters below them, a dozen ducks of one of their favorite prey
species---Mallard---doze in complete comfort and safety. A Peregrine simply
can't accumulate the kinetic energy in a two-meter dive to kill a Mallard
when it usually needs two hundred meters vertical distance to do so. But
then there was Gyrfalcon which flew about fifty yards in horizontal flight
and clattered a Green-winged Teal flying ten feet above the ground so hard
the dead teal bounced twice.

A raptor such as Great Horned Owl which relies more on the trauma-inflicting
power of its massive talons than kinetic energy transfer can not only easily
kill a currently fashionable little yap-dog but could lift it off and to its
nest as easily as a rabbit or small skunk. Don't let your little guy out to
his or her business without an escort or you may be singin' Momma, Don't Let
Your Lap Dog Grow Up to be Owl-Prey.

>My only experience was with an 82gram Saw-Whet Owl which had killed

a 21gram Song Sparrow and couldn't drag it off the road, let alone become

But saw-whets can thump a larger bird and feed on it *in situ* without
problems: the road seems like the bugger factor in this situation as not
many saw-whets willingly choose to feed on a road.

And, I've seen a large hen 'Black' Merlin lugging off a Rock
Pigeon she's just killed larger than she is in direct flight: a male Merlin
couldn't conceivably handle such a load. And what about a Peregrine flying
off handily with a heavy mallard drake it's just whacked? What matters in
carrying power may be the power that a raptor can deploy: greater for some
species or---given raptorial size dimorphisms---sexes.

> I have examined dead or dying eagles which have been struck by cars while

carrying teals because they couldn't maintain enough altitude to cross the

Relative weights aren't everything. Eagles carrying prey take a while to get
going, like geese running a while before they're airborne, so weights
they're carrying may be less important than the distance it takes for them
to get airborne: once aloft, they may be just fine. Besides, eagles aren't
evolved enough to outfly cars. And taking sample data from roadside only may
be skewing things a bit.

Michael Price
Vancouver BC Canada
loblollyboy at gmail.com

"I feel like a fugitive from th' law of averages!" -- GI Willie
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