May 26, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 20 January 2011 14:24
“We live in a fragmented forest, surrounded by 100-foot oaks, so lots of native birds come to our sunflower hearts and nyger feeders, right out the back door,” reports Raoul Tschebull of Darien. “The birds find shelter in a stand of junipers and yews about 10 feet behind the feeders, but that doesn’t prevent hawk predation.
“One morning, a dove bounced off a window near the feeders, stunned, and was immediately pounced on by a Cooper’s hawk, who killed the bird under my nose and lumbered off with the carcass — almost as big as he was — about 30 feet to feed.
“A second day, a small hawk, probably a Cooper’s, flew low over the terrace where the feeders are, in pursuit of dinner, and made a sharp left turn into the aforementioned copse of evergreens, but didn’t catch anything. This all happens in seconds, and identification is often difficult, but this low flying hawk had a barred rounded tail, so I could identify it.
“Today, a Cooper’s Hawk nailed a junco, and ate it in the evergreen stand.
“I appreciate that I’m feeding all kinds of birds — and that I miss seeing the vast majority of hawk kills.”
It’s easy to tell bird hawks from their larger brethren, like the Red-tailed. Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks are noticeably smaller, and also have the telltale long tails. Those tails are needed to execute the maneuvers, required to chase birds on the wing, like the “sharp left turn” noted by Raoul. The tails give these two Accipters much more turning ability than big hawks have.
Accipter is a worldwide genus of hawks that typically feed on other birds. The name stems from the Latin words, “to take after,” probably describing those pursuits Raoul saw.
Both of our Accipters have sort of odd names. Why are the shins sharp and who is Cooper?
In The Dictionary of American Bird Names, Ernest A. Choate writes, “The long, thin front of the lower leg of a man is a shin. The long, thin part of the lower leg of this bird suggests a shin, although it is below rather than above the ankle. The raised ridge on the front of the bird’s tarsus (shin) is rather unique as the cross-section of the tarsus of most land birds is rounded. It is the reason for calling the shin sharp.”
William C. Cooper (1798-1864) was a 19th Century zoologist who, in 1817, was one of the founders of the New York Lyceum of Natural History. This became the New York Academy of Sciences, today one of the leading organizations in the scientific community. In 2007, 23 Nobel Laureates were on its President’s Council.
We have several reports of bluebirds at feeders since last week’s big snowstorm. One is our own.
On Saturday, a sizable flock showed up, chasing off the doves and scores of other birds to chow down on sunflower hearts (which they love). Tom Belote saw a flock eating wild rose hips down at Ancona’s Market in Branchville, and Michael Kralik had them at his tube feeder in Ridgefield.
Kimberly Young of Nod Hill Road in Wilton recently had a Snow Bunting on her feeder. Despite its appropriate name for the season, this is not a common sight for a place like Wilton. Snow Buntings like wide open spaces like tundra; hereabouts they favor beach areas and most of the few recent area sightings have been along the Long Island Sound or Hudson River shores.
Quaker Ridge HawkWatch Findings, current season, presented by Luke Tiller, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 7 to 8:30 p.m., Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP appreciated at 203-869-5272 x221, greenwich.audubon.org.
“First Sundays,” bird walks open to all ages and skills, at Greenwich Point, with Meredith Sampson, first Sunday of the month, through May, 9 a.m. sponsored by Wild Wings, Inc., Bruce Museum and Audubon Greenwich, 203-637-9822.
Copyright 2011 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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