Saturday, November 30, 2019

Birds in the Rain

Living 24/7 in the elements has its drawbacks.

The few and far between rains have made this bird's hunt more difficult.

The bedraggled juvenile Cooper's Hawk landed in our backyard rather wet and somewhat dejected after an unsuccessful attack on the Mourning Dove flock.

All animals must deal with the elements. Whether they get stressed by the rain is uncertain.

Curve-billed Thrashers only live in a dry environment where rains are rare.

Luckily, he doesn't have to put up with this indignity that often.

Too much or too little rain doesn't faze a Cactus Wren.

The Cactus Wren rarely drinks water. Instead s/he gets all his water requirements from the insects he eats.

Rain is a threat for the Broad-billed Hummingbird though. At 0.12 ounce, a hail stone could remove this tiny bird from the picture.

Resting on a thorn in the open, this one is making the best of a wet situation.

The Abert's Towhee in a dry land, ground dwelling bird. Pairing up for life to sing in the desert underbrush, they survive on insects and seeds. Slippery rocks won't phase them either.

Hear their sweet song at:

As for the wet Cooper's Hawk, s/he might make a meal of any of the previously mentioned birds, with the possible exception of the Broad-billed Hummingbird. There's just not enough there to make that effort.

Six or seven hours later in the afternoon sunshine, he had dove for dinner.

(Click any picture to enlarge)
Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Monday, November 25, 2019

Not All Birds are COMMON to Everyone

It's hard to be more common than the ubiquitous Mourning Dove. Then again, when seen up close, the Mourning Dove is a respectable stand-out.

Blacks, whites and grays blend with soft shading as a stunning feather pattern appears. To that add a blue eye-ring and you have a beautiful bird.

Widespread and also common is the Gila Woodpecker. The male's red head and yellow belly, along with its piercing arrival and departure calls, grabs your attention.

Hear its shrill call at:

The Harris's Hawk is a larger and darker bird. Its size will impress you immediately.

Its colors, dark brown to near black to chestnut red, all jumble into a dull sheen.

They hunt together in family groups.

The Great Horned Owl is another large bird common to the desert southwest. Often heard hooting a longing lament on winter nights, they are seldom seen in the daylight.

This one proudly perched in our backyard at mid-morning. She was most accommodating, as we watched each other for a while.

Somewhat colorless except for its bright yellow eye, the Curve-billed Thrasher, a southwestern bird, is widely seen and heard... the definition of common.

What he lacks in color he makes up for in song or maybe whistles.

Hear its unique song at:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cooper's Hawk Portraits

The neighborhood Cooper's Hawk lands on our railing twenty feet out our patio door. 

S/he visits several times a day in hopes of scoring a meal. 

I haven't witnessed any carnage lately, (i.e. feathers), so to be in good health, he must be eating regularly some place else.

A breeze from the Big Wash ruffles his young feathers.

I stand half inside the doorway. He certainly sees me. I'm not advancing, but he's not leaving either. I am close enough for portraits.

He turns his head in robotic start/stop motions, taking in every sight and sound. His head reacts to every shutter click. He's that close. He's not fazed.

He gave me a few exciting minutes. He even dropped to the ground and came back to the same spot on the railing.

But then he glides down into the wash and is gone.

I like to think he was tail-waving me good-bye here, though I could be wrong.

(Click any picture to enlarge)


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Soggy Cooper's Hawk

Our resident Cooper's Hawk made an attack on the local bird life, but missed.  An explosion of doves and quails alerted me.

Rain is a rare event here in the desert, so that may have played a part in the miss.

When it flew to the fence, it spread its wings to dry off.

Either its neck was wet or it saw something overhead. As he dried out he relaxed his wingspread a bit.

The hawk regularly hunts this neighborhood, but is usually not this accommodating to pictures. I took all the pictures I wanted at a respectful distance.

Eventually only one wing remained damp.

A moment later a misguided dove landed on the roof in the Cooper's Hawk's sight lines. The Cooper's Hawk took off in a burst of speed.

The dove got away again and the Cooper's drifted down into the desert... hungry.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Black Phoebe

I'm always excited when I 'discover' a new bird. I haven't  discovered anything really 'new,' it's just a new bird for me.

And finding a Black Phoebe isn't that easy.

A narrow band of California's Pacific Coast and the southwest's border region is the Black Phoebe's only presence in America. Even then, only in wet landscapes.

This Black Phoebe was either in a mid-morning stretch or showing off to another Black Phoebe nearby.

Black Phoebes look alike and these two were spending a lot of time together.  I'm guessing they were a pair.

Black Phoebes are monogamous. Pairs have been recorded staying together for five years while raising two, even three, broods a season.

Fly catching is in their nature and this Black Phoebe had snatched a dragonfly.

S/he struggled with it for quite a while since the struggle meant a substantial meal.

S/he flipped, tossed and whacked it around... softening resistance.

It went down slowly, wings and all, in a series of swallows.

(Click any photo to enlarge)

Then pair bonding resumed.

I'm not sure who was impressing whom here.

Hear their song at:

Getting to see this 'new' species is special... noteworthy.  Only 9000 more to go.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cooper's Hawk (may be disturbing)

Our resident Cooper's Hawk was having a difficult moment.

Coughing up a pellet isn't a pleasant experience, judging by this juvenile's contortions.

It's just necessary.

Twisting, bending and bowing all combined to make the petulant pellet appear, so it was all worth it.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

This all happens seconds before a smaller unwitting bird lands right in front of him.

Wings collapsed, the young hawk drops to the ground, out of sight...

...only to rise with his next meal.


Monday, November 4, 2019


The bird showed minimal interest in me as s/he trotted past at a modest Roadrunner speed. They can reach 20mph if the situation demands.

The path was wide and he took the center of it. I couldn't have been happier with his demeanor and lack of concern.

Roadrunners are meat eaters. Eating mostly small mammals, lizards and insects, they patrol the ground for their food. Ground-nesting birds are fair game for this carnivore.

Unlike most birds, it's uncommon to see a Roadrunner in a tree, but it happens.

Being weak fliers, they prefer to run down their prey and are quite adept at killing rattlesnakes.

Speckled in a random brown pattern, he dresses in sunshine this cool morning.

November nights are cold so allowing the sun inside his feathers warms his body faster.

The messy undercoat is there for warmth...

...while the blues, greens and gold are to impress the opposite sex.

Sufficiently warmed, he's off on a hunt. Two feet long and traveling on two feet, he must be aware of coyotes. As fleet as he is, coyotes are twice as fast...40mph.

And coyotes are in the area too.

(click any picture to enlarge)


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds