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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Backyard Blast

This blog was originally named "Birds of the Air". The name that stuck was "Winging It", but there's still "bird" there, right? I answered "Why birds?" at one point. So I keep coming back to them. I like wildlife. Now, normally to get pictures of wildlife, you have to ... you know ... go out into the wild. Sometimes, though, it comes to you. These are some pics from my own yard and sometimes from my living room looking out in my yard.

This is an American Kestrel. This little bird is the smallest in the falcon family. Only 7-8" long, they feed on grasshoppers on the small end to sparrows at the high end (although once I saw one taking on a mourning dove). They range from the Arctic Circle to Central America. Their pair bonds are often permanent. These little falcons are perhaps the most numerous falcon in America. They probably live near you. Oh, and we watched him pick apart his catch there on that tree by the wall, an unfortunate sparrow.

The Cooper's hawk is a larger raptor than the Kestrel. This one appears to be an adult. They can be found from southern Canada to northern Mexico. They are extremely fast hunters. One ornithologist reported watching one in pursuit of a quail. The quail spotted a bush nearby and dove for cover, but before he could fall the few feet into the brambles the hawk swept under, turned upside down, and caught it as it fell. They are very similar to Sharp-shinned hawks. The books aren't helpful. "The key to identifying Cooper's hawks and Sharp-shinned hawks is to remember that there is no single field mark or telltale characteristic that can identify either species." Perfect.

This guy appreciated our bird feeders so much that he was a regular fixture for quite awhile. In this picture he came up practically to the window. Now, you'll notice that his markings are quite different than the Cooper's hawk, so this must be the Sharp-shinned, right? No, not really. Turns out that this is a juvenile Cooper's hawk. So we were privileged to help him hone his hunting techniques while he matured. As a demonstration of speed and intelligence, this one figured out that he could spook the smaller birds into running, wait for one to hit the window, and before it could hit the ground he would scoop it up and settle into his meal. We still see him from time to time. He doesn't appear to need our "easy pickin's" anymore.

Perhaps you recognize the setting. Yes, this fellow is on the same table as our young Cooper's hawk above. Perhaps you recognize him? Yes, that's a roadrunner. Now, as it turns out, Looney Tunes lied to us. We think of the poor little roadrunner, running down the road, minding its own business, and even stopping to peck at a pile of seeds from time to time. Turns out they're vicious hunters. They are carnivorous and kill their prey by grabbing them up in their beaks and pounding them against the ground. Their diet consists of insects, spiders, scorpions, lizards, and small birds. They'll even eat rattlesnakes. (These guys come to our yard for the small birds.) They are fast. They've been known to catch hummingbirds in flight and have been reported at speeds of 25 mph.

This cute little guy is a Verdin. Maybe 4-5" long, it is one of the smallest of its types in America. Like the roadrunner, they are southwestern desert birds, ranging from southern California to Texas and down into Mexico.. They eat insects and are known to visit hummingbird feeders for some of the dried sugar water they find there. Oh, and this one is in the midst of a blooming ocotillo bush, making a perfect storm of colors.

Hope you enjoyed this little visit into my yard of birds (as opposed to my yard birds). I know I did.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The Kestral has always been one of my favorite birds.

Stan said...

I like most raptors.

David said...

Much better than any old plastic flamingoes.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

So do I. We get to see lots of bald eagles and red-tailed hawks around here. And from late fall until early spring we have sharp shinned hawks visiting our bird feeders - to feed on the smaller birds. I have some outstanding photos of them.

Birds in general are my favorite wildlife.

Marshall Art said...

I'm partial to Daffy Duck, but I enjoyed the post. More so, I think, I enjoy your enjoyment of birds. I'm kinda fascinated by what fascinates others.

Bob said...

what kind of bird food are you putting out there?
in all the years that i was in the desert i have never seen half of your birds.
on the table no less. wow.

Stan said...

Well, remember, we're in the desert here. It's like 115° here. Not like that wimpy desert you used to live in. So all we need to feed them here is "shade" and they'll flock to the patio. :)