Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly...

...at least in principle.
A wildlife hospital is struggling to find room for 18 waterlogged red kites, rescued during recent wet weather.
Impressive things, red kites - at least as long as they aren't trying to snatch your child's packed lunch or squatting thoughtfully in a tree just above your newly-washed car.

They are, of course, no strangers to news headlines - a raid on a barbecue here, an attempted dog-snatch there - but by and large, they do what one would expect of them; with extra sustenance from roadkill and  from chicken carcasses left out on bird-tables (rather macabre, when you come to think of it), they have quickly found their niche in the rural ecosystem.

Now they are so well established that people are asking why they died out in the first place. We've been told it's because of agricultural practices and the action of unscrupulous egg-collectors, but there might just be another possible explanation.

According to the founder of Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, where the soggy fledglings have found refuge:
"Juvenile kites seem unable to take wet weather. They leave their nests, get wet and can literally fall out of the trees."
Yes, I can see that could be a problem...
"Once they've fallen out of trees, they just lie on the ground, soaking wet, and playing dead," Mr Stocker said. "For some reason they won't get up."
That explains a lot. In one of the best examples of Darwinism since the dodo found out that it wasn't a terribly good survival strategy to be stupid, friendly and delicious, the kites have amply demonstrated how precarious is their hold on life in the British Isles.

It may be that the price on their heads was a major factor and that egg-collectors - currently in the top 10 of fashionable Victorian baddies (along with tea-planters, the Raj and any white person who ever went to Africa) - destroyed the remaining population, but, if you ask me, any species that can't cope with rain is always going to be here on borrowed time.

5 comments:

  1. Wasn't there a film with Peter Sellers playing "Fred Kite" a Marxist trade union official?

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  2. Indeed there was - a classic!

    ('I'm Alright Jack', 1959; should be compulsory viewing for all prospective parliamentary candidates)

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  3. I'm a bit of a sucker for animals - not entirely rational. Can't stand the idea of cruelty to them - unless I want to eat one, of course.

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  4. JH,the problem with wanting to avoid cruelty to animals is the animals who practise it themselves...

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  5. "('I'm Alright Jack', 1959; should be compulsory viewing for all prospective parliamentary candidates)"

    And for those thinking about joining a union... ;)

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