Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Grey Hawk and the Garrobo

“Wow!” exclaimed my husband, one afternoon as we sat quietly reading on our terrazzo. We lived in a small town on the Pacific coast of Mexico this past winter, where we were treated to the daily sights of raptors not seen in our New England area. Zone-tailed Hawks, Short-tailed Hawks and Grey Hawks were among those that frequently passed over our house, giving us views and photo-ops of those species which, while quite common there, are still novel enough to us that we stop what we’re doing to admire and study them.

This “wow” moment was triggered by the arrival of a Grey Hawk onto a branch of a tall palm at the edge of our garden. We watched as she (we guessed the bird was possibly a female due to her large-ish size) quickly side-stepped along the main stem of the big frond, and disappeared into the central cluster of branches at the top of the tree. We wondered if perhaps there was a nest, or a nest-to-be. The next afternoon she was back, sitting for a while out in the open before once again retreating into the cluster.

When we saw her arrive a third time she remained perched on the central stem of one of the stouter fronds, and seemed to be staring down at us, or at something fairly nearby.

I had seen the occasional small lizard darting about in the garden, but nothing that I guessed would tempt a predator of the size of our grey visitor. No ground squirrels were in our neighborhood, and the only nest I could see was that of a Cinnamon Hummingbird above our patio steps. And then we realized that we hadn’t been seeing “Garrobo.” Garrobo is the colloquial name of the black spiny-tailed iguana, which can grow to over a meter in length. Nose to tail tip our particular garrobo was maybe 30 inches. He daily basked on the terracotta tiles roofing a small outbuilding at the edge of the garden, and we had been watching him each day as he adjusted his position according to the sun angle. This shed was below a certain tall palm tree. The day we realized we hadn’t seen him was the day after our last visit from the Grey Hawk.

Could a Grey Hawk take a garrobo? Was this a coincidence? A few days later a garrobo was again basking on the roof of the shed. We’ll never know for sure that it was the same garrobo which had maybe hidden away during the visits of the hawk, patiently waiting until she found a meal elsewhere. Whatever the case, we never saw the hawk return to our yard.
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Photos by W. Fogleman

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your hawk notes and the garrobo interactions. I live on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica and have seen the hawks regularly feeding on garrobos. I have a hawk here that has eaten at least three including the large 4' foot male recently. Hoping to get pictures but everytime she flies over my camera is somewhere else : (