Monday, April 17, 2017

The Flight of the Swallow-Tailed Kite

There is little freedom in the world that is comparable to that of a bird. While staying at San Gerardo Field Station within the Bosque Eterno de los NiƱos, we were lucky enough to see a group of swallow-tailed kites soaring across the sky miles above us as we sat on the station’s porch in awestruck jealousy. Their elegant tails extended stiffly in a “V” shape behind them as they sailed through the sky, serving as a dead giveaway for their identification. It is bewildering to consider that, moments before, these birds had been perched in nearby trees at similar altitudes to us. However, some unknown sensation had arisen within them and left them with the inclination to fly. Now they effortlessly glide miles above with such grace that any ground-locked human would surely become green with envy.
Out of the crowd, a single kite plunged into the canvas of primary and secondary forest below and emerged moments later clutching a snake in its talons. Within moments, the other hawks noticed the bird climbing up into the sky with its new prize and began to strike at it in an attempt to make off with the fruits of the other bird’s labor. The hawks struck at their compatriot time and time again but to no avail. Finally, a lucky strike was landed. The grip was loosened and the snake dropped. However, the bird responded quickly to its lost prize and once again dove to grab the snake. After once again firmly grasping the snake, the kite altered its path, clearly frustrated with the petty squabbling displayed by its brethren, and sailed off towards the colossal Volcano Arenal looming in the background. Meanwhile, leaving us in awe and envy of the exchange we had just witnessed.
Luca Grifo-Hahn
Saint Mary’s College of Maryland

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