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SFM #2: Animals. Soaring Raptors of Hong Kong

By Robert Wu for his family and friends

I was attending a meeting in the conference room on the 28th floor when a loud thud on the window startled everybody. We looked out the window and saw a hawk falling after flying into the glass wall of our Causeway Bay building. Fortunately, it regained its composure and flew away after the drop of several feet. I could almost see it shaking its head to clear itself up.

Hong Kong is unique among major cities of the world. While it is probably the most densely populated city in the world, its concrete jungle changes abruptly into steep wooded hills. Sally and I can leave our residence blocks and walk to a pristine country park in 10 minutes. These hills provide homes to two kinds of raptors. One is goshawk that hunts small animals and the other is osprey that fishes.

These large brown birds of prey are beautiful to look at. They have four-foot wingspans that end in fans of long feathers. Their tails are sharp triangles. When they ride thermals and rise in 50-foot diameter spirals, their heads would look about smartly in search of prey.

The ospreys do not seem to be proficient fisherman, though. Ferocious eagles in Alaska are shown on the Discovery channel to swoop over water and snatch fish from the sea with outstretched talons. Our ospreys would flap their wings to hover above the waves, and try clumsily to catch fish and stay dry at the same time. I have not seen one successful catch yet.

In early evenings, I would look out of my office window and see raptors congregate in soaring parties. Groups of ten or twenty would circle over an area the size of a city block, forming columns that reach to the height of a thousand feet. While they seem to enjoy the company of other raptors, they would occasionally get into spats. I once saw two birds lock talons in midair and fall several hundred feet while wheeling around in a square dance doosie-do fashion. Apparently the spinning did not get them too confused. They let go and flew off before they hit the pavement.

Different cities have different prevalent birds. New York has its flocks of pigeons and San Francisco has its comical pelicans. Hong Kong has its raptors and they add to the dynamic character of this wonderful city.

 

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