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Tragedy at a Sparrowhawk’s Nest

With webcams squarely focused on the nests of birds around the world, I predicted that eventually we’d be forced to see the grim reality of nature where things don’t always work out as well as the Decorah eagles, which has just become the most watched live stream ever with more than 100 million views.

Well, this reality came true Monday when the live video feed from UK’s Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh showed a heart-wrenching struggle between an intrusive crow and a sparrowhawk trying to defend her nest.

The Garden was looking forward to broadcasting the sparrowhawk’s nest, the hatching of the eggs and the natural behavior of the birds of prey. Unfortunately, it was all cut short not long after it began.

On the video, which you can watch at BBC News, the sparrowhawk sitting on her eggs takes flight to defend the nest from a large crow that was getting too close. The battle ensues off camera until the crow reappears by itself. Before the crow gets to the eggs, the mother once again reappears and the struggle is visible on the camera.

Although the video ends with the two birds leaving the view of the camera, the story has a sad ending. The keepers of the webcam went back to the eggs the next day and saw that all the eggs had been punctured, presumably by the crow. The mother has still not returned, most likely suffered fatal injuries, and the father has abandoned the nest.

This clearly demonstrates that it’s a dog eat dog world, and the biggest bird, in this case the crow, wins.

For the people witnessing it live or if there were children watching, it could have been confusing and even difficult at first. The Garden is having an event pretty soon to show highlights of other bird webcams and explain why the incident happened.

What happened was not necessarily a bad thing because there are a lot of broods that do not make it out of the nest. Although the mother is probably too gravely wounded or dead to try again, the Garden is going to focus on another breeding pair to watch a new family grow.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.