Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Birds of Prey Part 2

Two Different Ways to Hunt

Red Shouldered Hawk pair in my backyard last winter.

Cooper's Hawk in my backyard this summer.
If you have read the blog for awhile, you know I have two species of hawks that like to hunt in my backyard.  They have two very different but lethal hunting styles.  This morning one of them was successful.

Red Shouldered Hawk's Approach

Red Shouldered Hawk hunting in my backyard last week.

The Red Shouldered Hawk's hunting style is perching in plain view, looking around(like the one above), then striking. It uses it's powerful wings to thrust into flight and catch it's prey mostly on the ground.  The Red Shouldered Hawk is a very loud hawk but I can tell when it is hunting because it is visible but quiet.  The other thing, I have noticed is most of the squirrels and birds carry on feeding around my yard.  They don't seem to be too worried about the talons and sharp beak that is observing them from a nearby tree.  

The red shoulder where it gets it's name.

Cooper's Hawk's Approach

The Cooper's Hawk takes a more stealthier approach to hunting.  It usually catches it's prey by surprise or chases them through the trees.  It uses it's long tail like a rudder and it's shorter wings to maneuver through the trees after birds.  The above pictures (taken this morning) shows how lethal the Cooper's Hawk can be.  This was a Morning Dove that wasn't very lucky.  The below picture is what was left behind after it quickly took it's catch somewhere safer to eat.  The Cooper's Hawk is known to prey on birds around feeders and this is what probably happened in this case.  The squirrels and birds were quiet and nowhere to be found after this strike for about 30 minutes.  

What types of Birds of Prey do you have in your area?  Tell us about them in the comments or on Facebook.  Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.  Happy Holidays and Happy Birding!  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Feathers on Friday

Wood Stork

Happy Friday and one week to Christmas.  Here is another shot from our recent trip to the Tampa, Florida area at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.  

More Feathers on Friday Post:

Prairie Birder

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

JG Birds +

The Morning Side of Life

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.  Happy Holidays and birding!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bird of the Week

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Photo Credit: Dick Daniels/Wikimedia Commons
This one goes out to my aunt and cousin who live in New Mexico.  I was lucky enough to see one while visiting them a little while back.  No other bird is synonyms with desert life like a Roadrunner though they do live in other habitats like grasslands.  What an amazing bird to thrive in such a harsh habitat.

The Greater Roadrunner is a large member of the Cuckoo family who adapted a special skill of running and foraging on the ground rather than flying.  They can fly but not very well.  They eat mostly meat.  The Roadrunner hunts reptiles, small mammals, insects, centipedes, scorpions and, other birds.  The Greater Roadrunner will even take on the poisonous rattlesnakes and peck them repeatedly in the head till they die.  The Roadrunner bashes larger prey against rocks to make them easier to swallow.

 Ironically, the Greater Roadrunner nest in trees, bushes and cactus off the ground sometimes up to ten feet tall or higher.  This is probably why they still have the ability to fly.  Roadrunners mate for life and are known for their elaborate courtship rituals every mating season.

Fun Facts about the Greater Roadrunner 

-The Roadrunner was made famous by the Looney Tunes cartoon.  It first appeared in 1949.

-Though Willy E. Coyote is much slower than the Roadrunner in the cartoons, in real life a coyote is twice as fast as a Roadrunner and is a dangerous predator for them.    

-Roadrunner has adapted to their dry habitat by secreting salt out of a gland in front of their eyes.  This process uses less water than secreting through the kidneys and urinary tract.  

Have you seen a Greater Roadrunner or have any stories about them?  Tell us about it in the comments or on the Facebook page.  Thanks for reading and happy birding!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Which is Which? The Answers

House Finch or Purple Finch?

1.) Answer-House Finch

Photo Credit: Matthew Holt/Commons Wikimedia
The bright red bib and red head with brown cap help to identfy this one as a male House Finch.  

2.) Answer-Purple Finch

Photo Credit: jima5552003/Creative Commons/Flickr
The all red head with no brown cap and the rosy rump helps to ID this one as a male Purple Finch.  

3.) Answer- Female Purple Finch

Photo Credit: Dick Daniels/Wikimedia Commons
The white eye line and notched tail help to identify this one as a female Purple Finch.  

4.)Answer- Purple Finch 

Photo Credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/ WikiMedia Commons
The all red head with no brown cap, the red rump and the chunkier shape helps to ID this one as a male Purple Finch 

5.) Answer- Female House Finch

Photo Credit: Howcheng/Wikimedia Commons
The brownish head with no white eye line and the two narrow white wing bars help to identify this one as female House Finch

How did you do?  I had to brush up on my Finch features for this one especially on the females.  I hope you enjoyed it and stay tune for more tricky bird identifications.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Which is Which?

House Finch or Purple Finch?

It is that time again to sharpen up your identifying skills of two birds that are tricky to tell apart.  The winter season will probably bring these two finches to visit your bird feeder.   Can you tell them apart?  






This one was tricky even though I had the answers.  How do you think you did?  Post your answers in the comments or on the Facebook page.  Remember to like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.  I will credit the photos in the answer post.  Stay tune for the answers!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Feathers on Friday


Happy Friday! Last friday, I was in enjoying a little beach time on Gulf Coast of Florida by Tampa/St. Pete area.   I love watching the Willet foraging around on the beach.  

More Feathers on Friday Post:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bird of the Week

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentals )

I recently went to the Tampa/St Pete area with my family for some sun and sand.  While there, we visited the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, FL.  This friendly guy was there to welcome us and pose for some pictures.

The Brown Pelican is a success story of wildlife conservation.  They were on the brink of extinction in until the ban of the pesticide DDT.  The pesticide caused their egg shells to be thin and brittle.  They have rebounded well and are now fairly common in the Southeastern United States and on the coast in Southern California.  

The Brown Pelican uses it's large beak and deep pouch to catch fish on the surface of the water.  They are seen flying low over the water and then scooping up fish.  They will at times scavenge and steal from other seabirds.  

The Brown Pelican will nest on the ground, or on platforms, or in trees.  The reason DDT was so harmful to Brown Pelican is because they incubate their eggs with their feet. The pressure would just break the thin and brittle eggs.  

Fun Facts about The Brown Pelican

-Gulls and other seabirds sometime steal fish right out of Pelican's pouch.

-Male Brown Pelican select a nest site and then try to attract a mate with head swaying.  They will defend their area aggressively from other males.

-The oldest known Brown Pelican was amazing 43 years old.  

For more information on the Seacoast Seabird Sanctuary Click here.   Share your experiences with Brown Pelicans in the comments or on the Facebook page

Friday, November 20, 2015

Feathers on Friday

A Group Shot

Happy Friday! Did you make it through Friday the 13th?  I guess so if you are reading this.  This week's shot is of the three amigos of my bird feeder.  The Black-capped Chickadee, the Tufted Titmouse and, the White-breasted Nuthatch are the most frequent visitors to my three feeders.  Actually, This shot previews a review, I'm working on for the squirrel proof feeder in the shot.  Is it really squirrel proof? Stay tune for the review.  

More Feathers on Friday Post


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bird of the Week

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

The Mourning Dove has one of the most beautiful but haunting calls of any bird.  Their sad call fits a bird that is on almost every predators menu including humans.  Even with all that, the Mourning Dove's population is doing well in the United States.  They are very adaptive and can thrive in rural and urban areas alike.

The Mourning Dove forges on the ground for seeds which makes up almost all of their diet.  They are frequent visitor to bird feeders and they walk around the ground underneath the feeder pecking at seeds.  They store all that seed in their crop till they can digest in a safer location.  Mourning Doves will eat close to 20% of their body weight daily.

The Mourning Dove can have up to 6 broods per breeding season.  Each brood usually includes 2 eggs.  I guess you would need that many new birds to keep the population stable.

Fun Facts about the Mourning Dove 

- Mourning Doves wings make a whistling noise when they take off and land caused by the contour of their flight feathers.  

-Mourning Doves is a very popular game bird.  Over 20 million are killed every year.  

-Mourning Doves can adapt to areas like deserts with little fresh water by drinking brackish water.  

Thanks to my sister for the nice shot of these two Mourning Doves relaxing(maybe digesting all that seed?).  Share your experience with the Mourning Dove in the comments.    

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Feathers on Friday

White-Breasted Nuthatch

All the Migrants have left and only the hardy natives that brave the winter are left. This spunky little guy is frequent visitor to my bird feeder.

More Feathers on Friday Friends

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Birds of Prey

Can they coexist?

This is one of resident Red Shouldered Hawks that is here year round.  Their nest is close by somewhere in the woods behind my house.  They are very loud and seem to be very territorial especially during the breeding and nesting season.  

This is the Cooper's Hawk that I have been seeing periodically in my yard.  I was only able to get a quick shot of him since he comes and goes pretty fast.  Can these two coexist in the same territory? I'm not sure they can.  From all I have read and know about Red Shouldered Hawks, they chase crows, owls and other hawks away.  This Cooper's Hawk probably has reason to move quickly.  

Share your stories of rival Birds of Prey in the comments or on Facebook page or on Twitter

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Who does this belong to?

Can you ID this feather?

My sister sent me this shot and really stumped me for awhile on what bird this came from.  The feather was found in a wooded area, fairly close to the ocean in Rhode Island.  It measures about 14" long.  She saw a large hawk/bird of prey in the yard with a white underside.  So you can you ID this feather? 
Was this feather from the hawk? Or the prey of the hawk? Or completely unrelated?  
Comment below on what you think.  Stay tuned for the answer.  

The answer is: Wild Turkey.  The hawk was unrelated as a Turkey is way too big of prey for a probably a Red-Tailed Hawk.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Ally in the War

Ciciada Killer Wasp are the worst!

The summer brings nice weather and lots of different birds species.  One of my favorites now is the Eastern Wood-Pewee.  This small member of the Flycatcher family puts on a fantastic show when it is catching flying insects.  It perches around my yard then arobatically flies after all kinds of insects. Their call of Pee-a-wee is very distinct and is regularly heard in the woods around my house.  These little guys became an unexpected ally this summer.

photo credit: Bill Buchanan/US Fish and Wildlife

I absolutely dread the rattling sound of the Cicadas' in the trees around my house.  For most, it is a sign of the hot days of summer.  For me, it reminds me that I will be at war once again with the Cicada Killer Wasp.  These huge wasp are mostly harmless and will only sting if you really mess with them.  To my two young boys, they are still very scary.  They like to buzz around looking tough and digging holes in my lawn to raise their young that I will battle next year.  The first year, I killed over a hundred of them armed with a hose and shovel.  They have decreased every year so I guess I am winning.  This is where the Eastern Wood-Pewee surprised me and perched by the Cicada Killer Wasp holes.  It flew at them trying to catch them in midair.  I'm not sure if it was successful in catching a wasp but I appreciated the effort of my now favorite Flycatcher.

If you have ever experienced the Cicada Killer Wasp, I feel your pain.  They are the worst!

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Mob Mentality

Why do birds mob?

User OutRIAAge02/Wikimedia creative commons
Photo Credit:  User OutRIAAge02/Wikimedia creative commons

Ever seen a group of chickadees take on a much larger Hawk? A group of Blue Jays harass a larger Raven out of your yard? Or even a group of birds harassing a fox? You probably have asked yourself, "Why would a much smaller bird risk their lives to take on a much bigger bird?"  Well, just like people, birds have strength in numbers.  

I have always been interested in bird behavior not just identifying birds.  It is fascinating to watch what will happen next.  Sometimes, the behavior is completely what you thought  it would be  and then there are the times that the result is completely unexpected.  Mobbing is one of these behaviors. You would think these smaller bird would run and hide from the "Big Bad Hawk" but they do the direct opposite. 

There are many theories to why these birds mob larger predators.  They range from: protecting their young, alerting others of a predator in the area, distracting predators so much they don't think it is worth the effort to hunt in the area, to alerting larger predators that a smaller predator is  "right there".  I think there is probably several reasons why birds mob predators and all seem to be associated with removing the danger from the area.  I have to say I have never seen a mobbing by a group of birds actually not work in making the predator leave the area.  They usually leave in a hurry!  There is probably some risk associated with this behavior but I think the risk greatly outweighs the rewards.  

Share your stories of "mobbing" in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Which is Which-The Answers

Golden Eagle or Bald Eagle? How did you do?


Answer- Immature Bald Eagle

The almost complete brown color says Golden Eagle but the heavy large beak gives this away as probably a first year immature Bald Eagle.  The Immature Bald Eagle varies in color and usually gets more white patches as it gets older.  The "bald" head, yellow beak and white tail feathers of an adult Bald Eagle usually takes 4 to 5 years to develop. Thanks to Karen C for the great shot.  


photo credit: Juan Lacruz/Wikimedia Creative Commons

Answer- Adult Golden Eagle

The "golden head" shows up well in this photograph.  The smaller "hawk like" bill gives this away as an adult Golden Eagle.  Also note the smaller size head of the Golden Eagle.  Bald Eagles have much larger heads than the Golden Eagle.


photo credit: Pat Gaines/Creative Commons

Answer- Golden Eagle

The smaller size beak and Golden brown head makes this one a Golden Eagle.  The interesting thing about this photograph is the white patches on the wings and tail.  This one is probably an immature Golden Eagle.  An adult Golden Eagle would have all brown wings and a pattern of white and brown stripes.  


Answer- Immature Bald Eagle

The heavy bill gives this one away as an Immature Bald Eagle.  Also with the wings up, we can see the varied patches of white that is common in an immature.  The larger head can also be used to ID this one.  The third year Immature Bald Eagle would have much more white everywhere on its body.  This would make this one a younger immature, probably a first year.  Sadly only, 50% of Bald Eagles live past their first year of life.  Thanks again to Karen C for the great shot.


photo credit: unknown/creative commons image was removed after used
  Answer- Immature Golden Eagle

Again the bill size and smaller head gives this one away as a Golden Eagle.  The patches on the wings and solid white part on the tail identifies it as an immature.  

I hope you enjoyed this ID test and learned how to better ID these large Birds of Prey.  Stay tuned for more tricky bird IDs and thank you all for your support.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Which Is Which?

Golden Eagle or Bald Eagle? Can you Tell?

Another tough ID for birders is the Golden Eagle or Immature Bald Eagle.  The size, color, and some overlapping range can make this difficult one.  I was lucky enough to monitor two Bald Eagle nests in Colorado for three years.  This experience helped me to spot some key differences that make identifying these large birds of prey apart. Lets test your ID skills.






Did you know all of them?  Share your answers in the comments or comment on the Facebook page here.  I will acknowledge the photos in the answer post so not to give away anything.  Stay tuned for the answer post.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Uninvited Guest Part 2

The Bear problem

Nothing happened for over a year.  I found no evidence that the bear was still visiting.  I placed bird seed on a plate so I could remove it every night.  That worked well for awhile.  

The second encounter

My dog was recovering from knee surgery and I was taking him out the front door since there was no stairs.  I took my dog out the front as usual in the morning and let him do his business.  We went back inside.  My deadbolt wasn't working properly so I reopened the door to fix it and this is when I saw it.  It was walking the same path through the front yard towards my feeder.  I quickly shut the door and grabbed a camera.  These are the shots I got of it through the front window of my house.  The crazy thing was it had to be close by when I was outside with my dog.  I didn't notice it at the time but my dog was sniffing the air more than usual that morning.

I watched it through the window as it walked up to my empty feeder and then kept walking through the woods.  I did some research on Black Bears and it appears this was an adult female that weighted about 85 lb. I haven't seen her since but I now have a healthy respect for these beautiful creatures and lets just say I look around before walking out my front door now.   

Have you had an encounter with a bear or other animals? Tell us in the comments or on the Facebook page here.  If you missed part one click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wake up Junior!-Updated

Eastern Bluebird Family

Papa Eastern Bluebird
I was lucky enough to have a family of Eastern Bluebirds in my backyard over the last few days.  The female and male were busy catching bugs in the woods and on my lawn.  An immature male was also following them around.  He was displaying some strange behavior.  Here is what I mean.
Hopefully sleepy not sick.

At one point, he was laying on the ground and I thought he was dead but when I went to investigate he flew off.  This morning, he was laying on the branch while mom and dad were catching bugs.  He flew off after them but hopefully he is healthy.  He looks really young so maybe the new task of flying makes him tired?  I am hoping for the best.  Here are some more shots of mom and dad.  

Male Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird 

Update- I am happy to report, I saw the Bluebird family this morning.  Junior now has his immature plumage and looked healthy.  After talking to some fellow birders online, it seems  Junior was probably trying to get rid of parasites by lying flat on the ground or on the tree branch.  

Have you ever seen immature bird acting like this?  Tell us about in the comments.