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SPOTLIGHT
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Bird remains regal, even in death

Published on -3/30/2012, 11:37 AM

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Sometimes, it seems like they are everywhere, soaring majestically on the wind currents that make Kansas famous. Or they're perching stoically on highway signs or even a single T-post holding up four strands of barbed wire fence.

They are the red-tailed hawk, easily discernible due to the -- you guessed it -- red band on their tail.

Yet they are wary creatures, lifting off before a vehicle even has a chance to slow down to take either a closer look or perhaps get a photograph.

That's why I simply couldn't pass up the chance to take an ever-so-close peek at one that had died.

How it died is something of a mystery, one that -- as a cynic -- concerns me.

That's because it wasn't along the road when I headed to town one recent Sunday, but it was there, in plain view, less than an hour later when I drove the same route home.

At first I suspected it had been electrocuted, given the power poles under which it rested. But it had evidently been dead for a while, stiff and the passage of time taking its toll.

Never mind that, I got up close, taking photograph after photograph.

I'm sure some people, had they happened by, would have wondered why on earth I was taking so many photos, from so many different angles, of something that was already dead.

But it's not often you get a chance to get up close and personal to such a marvelous species.

The talons are breathtaking, as I'm sure they've taken the breath of many small mammals when a hawk swoops down and snatches it up, carrying it off.

Its beak is just as breathtaking, knowing full well, that it could literally rip to shreds the flesh from the next meal.

They are killing machines, plain and simple.

Absent some almost divine intervention, surely what a hawk latches onto will be its next meal.

I felt guilty letting such a majestic creature lay by the roadside, but I also know the trouble that could follow me if someone wanted to push the issue had I decided to pick up the hawk for delivery to proper wildlife authorities.

Thee was a time years back where I happened upon another red-tailed hawk that had been electrocuted. It was obvious.

I picked him up, put him in the freezer and then quickly called the game warden, letting him know all the details. I dropped it off as soon as possible.

But had this latest bird been the victim of foul play, I certainly want no part of that.

It's a shame, actually, because parts of the bird could have been put to use, in Native American religious ceremonies.

At least I have photographs to share.

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