Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Flight of A European Honey Buzzard. Or What Lust/Love Makes Us Do.

My apologies for linking to a parseltongue website, but the story can be understood without getting the language.   It's about a European honey buzzard grrl who has just finished a migration flight from South Africa to her nesting site in Finland (11207 km, 6964 miles), pushed ever onwards by her aching hormones.*

That's my interpretation, not what the serious nature scientists tell in the linked story and earlier versions of it.  The bird, called Päivi by humans (sort of like being called Dawn in English), missed the mating last year, what with all that loitering en route.  This year she almost made the same mistake, but really picked up time during the last few days, averaging during that time  384 km (239 miles) per day!

The assumption is that her old man will be waiting for her at the nesting site.  European honey buzzards appear to be monogamous in the sense of having the same mating partner but not necessarily wintering together. This might be the perfect marital compromise!

I was hooked by Päivi and the site**, rooting for her to make it, noting how she skirted large areas of water except at the final stretch where she chose to fly across the sea (perhaps to guarantee that hot sex bit).  Such a long flight has many dangers, from hunters to exhaustion etcetera, and I'm sure that not all birds make it.

Why fly almost 14,000-mile round trips every year?  Isn't there anything closer to South Africa if plentiful bugs are the requirement for a good nesting site?  Isn't there anything closer to Finland if a balmy climate is the requirement for a good wintering site?  I'm sure that there's a good explanation for this behavior, and in any case the life of hawks is soaring, right?


One of the articles in the series states that the bird's ova start swelling in March and that the total time for mating ceremonies for European honey buzzards is unusually short for birds, so that the females are in real hurry to get the sex started.

**One is not supposed to anthropomorphize other animals but it's fun to do, sorry.  And neither is one supposed to worry that the tagging of the bird might have been why she made it too late last year and almost too late this year.  But I do.