Close Encounter

I was walking from the student union building back to my office after lunch today when out of nowhere a HUGE flash of white and brown feathers passed from right to left just before my eyes. I felt something light and fast pass over my arm and chest. My friends Yi-min, Liwei and I all looked dumbfounded for a second trying to figure out what just happened.

We saw it fly into a rhododendron. In the darkness of the bush sat a red-tailed-hawk. A huge red-tailed-hawk.  Looking at it, I wondered for a second if it was an eagle–it was so big. It perched atop its kill. It had caught something in the air and had run into us with it! I think some of the prey might have hit me, too. The hawk hit me in the arm, but it actually hit Liwei in the ear. We checked out his ear and verified that it hadn’t removed any of him in the process. Then we watched it fly away, and I saw the impressive red upper side of its tail as it came out of the bush.

A few second later, some of my other co-workers who were slower leaving lunch came around the corner, and I said, “did you guys see what just happened?!” but they’d missed it. I was wishing I’d had my camera, but it happened so suddenly and was over so quickly, I doubt it would have been of any use. You can’t really capture the experience of being hit by a hawk in a picture.

Nonetheless, check out the huge talons on this juvenile red-tailed hawk (public domain photo released by Alison Philips):

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