Posts Tagged 'birds'

Ravens & Red-Tails

Three times in the last month I’ve seen Common Ravens and Red-tailed Hawks chasing each other over Green-Wood. From an excellent source, I heard of another aerial ruckus visible overhead while I was elsewhere. The last time was last Sunday. We saw a pair of ravens this time. Then a few minutes later in the distance, one of the big corvids and a big buteo started going after each other. Sometimes the raven chases the hawk. Sometime the hawk chases the raven. This time it was pretty much the raven chasing the hawk out of the cemetery.

Raptor Wednesday

This Red-tailed Hawk in Green-Wood picked up a songbird and took into a pine to pluck. The prey was tiny, possibly a kinglet, hardly seemed worth the effort, and yet…In the top picture, you can see some feathers blowing off to the right. A clump came down to me.Same area, earlier. There were two, sometimes three RTs overhead at one point.

These big Buteos are not renown as bird-hunters, but they can mix songbirds as well as pigeons in with their more typical mammalian prey. Flexibility in diet must be one key to their adaptability to human environments.

Winter Wrens

When last we saw a Winter Wren in these pages, it was dead and being devoured by a Tufted Titmouse. But I’m sure you didn’t think I’d leave it at that. Here are two Troglodytes hiemalis foraging in proximity. These things are tiny: 0.3 – 0.4 oz (8-12 grams).Insect-eaters, mostly, but they’ll also scarf up juniper and other berries in season.Another day, very near the above location in Green-Wood.Another day, some distance away. There were two here as well. The upturned tail is characteristic.Once lumped with the Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), North American populations were split away into two species. The Pacific Wren is T. pacifius. On the 2010 split, from the 51st Supplement to the AOU Checklist of North American birds: “Formerly included in T. troglodytes (Linnaeus 1758)[Eurasian Wren], but here considered specifically distinct on the basis of differences in vocalizations (Kroodsma 1980, Hejl et al. 2002) and mitochondrial DNA (Drovetski et al. 2004). Formerly considered conspecific with T. hiemalis but separated on the basis of the absence of free interbreeding and maintenance of genetic integrity in their contact zone (Toews and Irwin 2008).”

In 2016, the American Ornithologists’ Union changed its own name on merging with the Cooper Ornithological Society and is now the American Ornithological Society (AOS).

Hokumpokes, or Scolopax minor

It’s that time of year again. The shady, leafy understory is potentially loaded with timberdoodles, hokumpokes, bog suckers, worm sabers…. Two may be found hunkered down in the picture above.They do have a lot of names, testifying to their hold on the imagination. One thing’s for certain: American Woodcocks generally see you before you see them. Then they rifle off in low-to-the-ground flight, twittering as they do so. There were an astonishing seven huddled here recently. That particular day, I didn’t run across any others anywhere else in Green-Wood. It was a convocation of Labrador twisters.

Raptor Wednesday

It was a crazy day. Raptors filled the air. An exaggeration, yes, but not by much. At one moment, there nine different raptors overhead, mostly Buteos and Accipiters. I’ve never seen so much activity above Brooklyn before. One of the birds was this juvenile Northern Harrier. The long tail, angled wings, buffy red breast, and especially the barely seen detail of the owl-like face help in on-the-fly identification.Here’s an adult Red-shouldered Hawk. And a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, which doesn’t have the rich red belly yet. Another view of juvenile Red-shouldered: look for the the “windows” on the outer primaries; the thin barring on the tail; the absence of dark patagium (the leading edge of the wing from the throat to the bend of carpel), which means it isn’t a Red-tailed Hawk. The juvenile Northern Harrier does have a red belly. But look how different its silhouette is from the Red-shouldered (top) in the above shot and in the very first photo above.

This piece, by long-time U.S.-watcher Gary Younge, was written before the election results. It’s a reminder what every single voter who voted Republican yesterday voted for.

Kestrels, As In Plural

Well, well, well! Thursday morning, male and female American Kestrels perched on the building down the block.The male.The female.The male flew back and forth from the rail atop the bulkhead to this ailanthus several times. Both falcons disappeared for a while, then their calls returned us to the windows. They were circling each other overhead. They landed on a nearby antenna, nearly side-by-side, then flew off again. Reunion? Courting?This time the male landed on the pipe the female had been on earlier, but only for a second. They were not noticed again that day, but on Friday, he showed up in in the afternoon.


Northern Flicker, yellow-shafted edition of the east. They have mostly passed through in migration by now, but a couple of weeks ago, the city was full of them.This Colaptes auratus male — females lack the black mustache marks — excreted while perched up here. Most of these birds are pretty skittish, bolting quickly at the first sign of anything. I’ve come across dogwood trees this fall that have emptied of a dozen flickers before I could say “pardon me.”The “yellow shafted” refers to the wing feathers, best seen from below, winking yellow in flight. Or at kill sites: I find plucked Flicker feathers a lot during migration. Finding whole wings are a bit unusual, but it’s the breast meat that predators go for, all that blood-rich flight muscle.This is our only woodpecker species that spends a lot of time on the ground, foraging for ants, beetles, and larvae of same, probably making them more vulnerable to predation from above. This one’s bill is dirty from poking into the ground.

Out west, the Flickers have red-shafted feathers. In between, they tend to intergrade.


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