May 23, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 10 July 2008 10:16
Irene Marks of North Salem, N.Y., recently “looked out my window at a phoebe nest under the eaves of our house. The phoebe often sits on a nearby post, hunting and keeping an eye on things. A small bird, perhaps a wren or Chipping Sparrow, landed on the roof edge, about eight feet from the nest. The phoebe was off the post like a shot, rammed the other bird, dragged it to the grass and held it down, belly up on the ground, mantling it like a hawk with prey. The other bird was screaming, as the phoebe attacked it.
“After close to a minute, the other bird escaped, with the phoebe in close pursuit. Once it cleared the territory, the phoebe returned to its post, and starting hunting insects again.
“Very dramatic! I know birds defend their nests, but I had never seen such intense action. Wow!”
Although this species is a strong defender of its territory, a quick check of literature on the Eastern Phoebe found nothing as spectacular as what Irene witnessed. For instance, writing in The Auk, an ornithological magazine, in 1942, Wendell P. Smith told of observing nesting phoebes over several years. “The male’s defense of territory was vigorous and it was not often challenged....The only real contests were with another male phoebe and with a pair of Barn Swallows that arrived later in the season and investigated possible nesting sites in the same shed.... The intruding male Phoebe was attacked with vigor on sight and the fight ended promptly with the repulse of the invader. The casual intrusion of a male Canada Warbler, probably in search of insects, brought a fierce attack with the two birds turning somersaults but ended soon in the defeat of the warbler, which departed protesting loudly.”
If the “small bird” Irene saw was a House Wren, then the phoebe’s violent attack is understandable. House Wrens are famous for destroying the eggs of birds nesting within their rather sizable territory, and would be a real threat to any songbird nest.
Dorothea Whitbeck of Ridgefield writes, “I had an interesting traffic jam in the yard last week. It happened about 10 feet from where I was sitting on the porch so I had a good close-up. The opening between two gardens narrows to about 10 feet and four turkeys were roaming around, pecking at corn, preening, sun bathing when quite suddenly a doe and her fawn were in their midst.
“The turkeys got a bit flustered, but held their ground — much wing flapping — but the deer were very serene, especially the fawn — adorable in its spots, and the mother standing there licking her, calmly and visibly proud. They stayed about 10 minutes and wandered slowly off.”
Diana Gray was interested in the recent discussion of sunflower seed prices, “especially because I had just read this morning’s New York Times cover story about food hoarding driving up the cost of staples, such as rice and wheat. The article named several countries not allowing their own produce to be shipped abroad, and also named Kazakhstan as restricting their sunflower seed exports.
“I have no idea if the US imports any of their sunflower seeds, or if we produce enough ourselves. But, in a global economy, that means importing countries will have to look elsewhere, i.e. the US, and will further drive up the cost of our sunflower seeds.”
If you get a kick out of trying new and different things, David Krueger of Pound Ridge suggests “The Architect’s Birdfeeder.” This small-bird feeder comes in eight, clear-plastic parts, which slide together without tools and were designed by, well, an architect (named Doug Patt).
“The Architect’s Birdfeeder is fun to put together and creates an elegant architectural object for your yard by virtue of its clear interlocking structural elements,” says the product’s Web site, www.abirdfeeder.com, which, David notes, “contains an interesting and creative animation of how it goes together.”
The feeder is $25 and may be worth purchasing just for entertainment and aesthetic value. It no doubt works, too.
Bird Watching Cruises on Long Island Sound and Norwalk Harbor, with Larry Flynn, wildlife conservationist, Saturdays from 7:30 to 10:30, aboard 40 passenger ferry, $20, Norwalk Seaport Association, from Seaport dock, Water Street, 203-838-9444, www.seaport.org.
Bird walks with Luke Tiller, mostly Saturdays at 8 a.m., $10 each; to register, www. sunrisebirding. com/ walks.htm; 203-981-9924, luke.tiller @ gmail.com.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, meet at the second concession stand, 203-637-9822.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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