Wes Craven's The Birds: Part 5

I thought I’d try to shed some light on the increasing tensions between hawks and doves by organizing a simple colloquy. A hawk on one side, a dove on the other, all within a safe environment. 

I approached a group of doves in a nearby park and asked for a volunteer. “What’s a colloquy?” they asked. “A simple get together where you can air your feelings regarding hawks,” I said. “We’re there,” they all said. “We’ve been wanting to vent about those guys for years.”

“Just one of you,” I said. “I don’t like shouting matches. Who will volunteer?”

Everyone looked at everyone else. After a moment a female who seemed to be the leader stepped forward. 

A promising start, I thought. But then, 

“As long as there’s no catch.”

I cleared my throat. “Well, someone will be invited to represent the hawk point of view, of course, but that’s only fair.” 

“Forget it!” she cried. “Hawks just look for an excuse to kill doves!”

She rejoined the others, no longer interested. “Too bad,” I sighed. “The voice of the dove should be heard.” 

No one budged for a moment, then a slender young female with deep brown eyes and a look of brave determination came forward.

“I think this is important,” she said to the others. And then to me, “Will there be a camera?”

“I’ll video the whole thing,” I promised. “Put it on YouTube, too. The whole world can participate.”

“Then I’m in,” she said. “If it’s safe.”

“You’ll be kept totally separate from each other,” I assured her. “We’ll use Robert’s Rules of Order, and there’ll be a moderator between you and the hawk. I’ll find somebody that no one will mess with, too, even the most rabid hawk.” 

“Someone twice as big as the hawk,” the original volunteer said, suddenly the agent. “If he’s not, my client walks.” 

“It’s a deal. Tomorrow, here, at dawn.”

“Somewhere away from people,” she said. 

“People might make it safer,” I suggested.

 “As if. We’re game birds in forty states.” 

“You serious?”

“As a heart attack. We’re called ‘cheap skeet.’ People shoot 20 million of us a year – more than any other animal in the country. Humans are worse than hawks.” 

She was scribbling something. “Here are our demands.” She passed over a piece of paper with some chicken scrawls on it. “I can’t read your writing,” I said.

“I want it someplace secluded. And I want a glass panel between our representative and the hawk,” she said. “Bulletproof.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I’ve got some Lexan in my shop. That’ll stop birdshot.” 

“It has to stop a hawk.”

“Guaranteed. Besides, I’ll be shooting.” She bristled. “Video, I mean. No hawk’s going to incriminate himself in front of a million people.”

“You’re naïve,” the agent dove said. “You should have that looked at.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” the young volunteer said demurely. “It’ll be great. It’s sure to go viral.”

And with that, one half of the deal was closed.

Finding a hawk proved to be much easier. As soon as I put out word it would be a mourning dove on the other side, one showed up at my door. A Cooper’s hawk, which was good. A Cooper’s is a mid-sized bird, not much bigger than a streamlined chicken. Not like a red-tailed hawk, for instance, which would be like an F-16 facing off against a Piper Cub. He seemed very nice, as a matter of fact. Just eager for a good debate.

So the next morning I was at the designated site, a hidden glade in a remote stand of oaks. Not a human in sight. 

I had set up three perches, one on each side of the Lexan, and the third, for the moderator, in the middle, like a linesman’s perch. It looked like something right out of The Hague, I thought proudly. But the dove, who was there early, had reservations. “Flimsy looking,” she said. I threw a rock at it. There was a loud whack, and the Lexan held. 

“Okay,” she said, satisfied. I got out my iPhone. She preened a little. Then a huge avian shadow swept over her in the blink of an eye. She hunched against the ground, terrified. But it wasn’t the hawk. Sweeping down in a stately spiral came our moderator, the only large bird I could find that felt neutral. A turkey vulture. Six-foot wing-span, gleaming black feathers, bright red head. Very impressive. He flapped down onto his station and straightened his feathers.

“A buzzard?” the dove said.

“Sorry I’m late,” the big bird said. “Had to wait for a thermal.” He eyed the dove.

“Morning, Missy. How’s the health?”

“I’m fine,” the dove said.

He looked at the empty perch, then at me. “So, where’s the haw –”

He never finished his sentence. The Cooper’s hawk flashed out of the sky and nailed the mourning dove from behind with such force she literally exploded in a burst of feathers. In a flash he shot over the Lexan and up into a tree, the dove in one talon, already a goner.

“Hey! That wasn’t our deal!” I cried. The hawk glanced down at me. “My kids are hungry,” he said. “That’s the deal.” And with that he began wolfing down the mourning dove, making fast work of her too. 

The buzzard noticed my dismay. 

“Don’t feel too bad. There are a lot of doves and not many hawks.”

Before I could respond, the plundered carcass of the mourning dove plopped down beside him. The hawk took off like a rocket, heading, I presumed, for its nest to regurgitate breakfast for the kids. 

The buzzard looked at the little pile of carrion, then at me. 

“Like leftovers?”

I shook my head. “I feel awful.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

I straightened up, looking as healthy as I could.

“Don’t get any ideas.”

He put one great foot over the dove’s carcass. “No idea what you’re talking about.” He tossed the remains down the hatch and said quietly, “I can wait. That’s what we vultures do best.”


This article is part of an eight-part series Wes Craven produced for Martha's Vineyard Magazine. Click here to read the entire saga of the filmmaker’s adventures with his avian neighbors.