June 18, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 27 January 2011 11:16
Susan Pszenitzki, who reads BirdNotes in The Redding Pilot, sent along the accompanying photo. “Recently, after one of the many snowstorms, the pair of hawks that live in the woods near my house began making more regular appearances. First, the male perched in the trees above my bird feeder. The next day, the female made her appearance in the yard. I caught this brief encounter between the hawk and a brave and hungry crow.”I’m not sure the crow is the hungry one here. I suspect it’s the desperate Red-tailed Hawk that landed on the feeder to get some of that suet.
I showed the picture to Ed Kanze, the naturalist and author, who penned hundreds of All Things Natural columns for this paper for many years. “Beautiful shot,” he said. “Interesting that the redtail seems interested in suet, because we had a redtail here once, hanging on our suet feeder. Those birds are desperate for fat in winter. Too bad they can’t afford Häagen-Dazs!”
(Ed, by the way, is about to depart for New Zealand and Australia to lead a three-week Smithsonian Adventures natural history tour. What a way to escape minus-20 degree temperatures in the Adirondacks — summer Down Under!)
Winter must really favor the bird hawks (Accipiters) featured last week. Their food — small birds — is much more exposed in the leafless environment, particularly when there’s snow on the ground. There are fewer places the prey can hide and plenty of very active feeders where Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks can pick them off.
But Buteos, like the Red-tail, aren’t equipped to chase little birds, and must rely chiefly on squirrels and carrion in winter. While there seems to be no shortage of squirrels, there is little else live that is easy to catch; the rodents, including rabbits, that are warmer weather fare are rarely seen with this kind of snow cover.
Red-tails will also challenge crows and vultures for carrion in winter. In effect, that suet is carrion.
As for Susan’s picture, that’s a typical crow reaction to a hawk or owl — wonderfully captured on camera. Crows instinctively “mob” or harass raptors, knowing they may be a threat. There is no way this hawk could attack the crow — it is not agile enough. But if the crow were on the ground or a limb, and not careful, a Red-tail could knock it off like a squirrel. The crow senses that, and wants the hawk to hit the road.
Speaking of squirrels, a recent column on keeping squirrels off feeders evoked some response, mostly favorable, but including one from a reader who enjoys feeding both birds and squirrels. She doesn’t encourage squirrels, but doesn’t discourage them either — enjoying their feeder antics.
That reminded us of a house we pass when bicycling the Harlem Valley Rail Trail south of Millerton, N.Y. The house is right next to the trail, and in its back yard is a feeder that ALWAYS has a squirrel on it, eating away. At first, I just thought it was poor placement, but on subsequent rides past, I noticed that the feeder owners had in fact erected “steps” up to the feeder to make the access easy for the squirrels.
‘EagleFest’ on the Hudson River, eagle watching with warming tents, exhibits, live eagle programs, Saturday, Feb. 5, 9 to 4, Croton Point Park, (914) 762-2912 or www.teatown.org.
Great Backyard Bird Count, 13th annual, Feb. 18 to 21, for info, birdsource.org/gbbc.
Great Backyard Bird Count, talk and walk, Saturday, Feb. 19, 1 to 2:30 p.m., all ages, Audubon Greenwich, RSVP 203-869-5272 x230, 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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