Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hummingbird Wishes

I wish to bring a little comfort into your life on these cold winter days and hummingbirds are all I have to offer. 

This Anna’s Hummingbird is wishing you warmth.  In violets and reds he may not be able to affect the weather in your part of the world, but he’s trying his best to help you. He brings you color.

He seems to be asking for a little hug, too.

A Costa’s Hummingbird reflects the sunlight you may also need. He may look a bit menacing, but at 0.1 ounce, he’s harmless.

Please accept his offer in brilliant shades of violets and blues.
He, too, is asking for a hug.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Acorn Woodpecker

                        If you're like me, an Acorn Woodpecker will probably make you smile.

Acorn Woodpeckers are a medium size, mountain dwelling bird with an outsized birdsonality. They’re comical in manner and appearance with more than enough charm to keep you smiling. Often described as clown-faced, they suggest evolution has a sense of humor. 

They live in the forest, but not in every forest. Their range only covers parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Oak and pine forests are their preferred habitat, especially the oak forests where acorns provide a primary food resource.

As woodpeckers, they exploit the dead and dying limbs of trees to chisel holes to make granaries. They stuff acorns into the round holes for their winter food supply. Some insects are stored for future consumption, too. These granary trees are valuable to the Acorn Woodpecker’s survival, so they guard them closely.

Making granaries allows Acorn Woodpeckers to remain in one location from year to year, thus insuring a territory with abundant resources. They have a complex social structure in which mate sharing, group sex and infanticide all coexist to benefit the group as a whole.

The sexes look alike…almost. Both sexes have red heads, but the male’s red extends further forward. The male is on the left.  The other two are females. 

Hanging on trees and poles, they use their stiff tail feathers for support. 

Funny looking or not, the Acorn Woodpeckers invite you to let them entertain you.

Take the bait! 

As with any bird, the brief investment in time spent pays off with a smile. You could be measurably poorer without it.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds; Carly Hodes
Credit: The Sibley Guide to Birds 2nd Edition

Monday, November 10, 2014

American Kestrel

         An American Kestrel watches for movements below. From this tall utility pole he sees everything.

It’s morning in Tucson, Arizona. The sun has been up for a couple of hours and the large insects that kestrels prey upon are rising. Insects make up a sizable percentage of an American Kestrel’s diet. They hunt small mammals such as mice and voles, too, but large insects are more plentiful.

Grasshoppers, butterflies and spiders are preferred.

American Kestrels are not big.  For comparison they are about the size of a Mourning Dove and so much like doves, they can be confusing.

They both rest on power lines along rural roadways, but the doves are far more common. 

American Kestrels are the smallest of the North American falcons.

Kestrels hunt during the day. You might find one hovering into the wind…fixed in place, yet still flying. It’s quite likely there is a food opportunity below. 

Because birds can see in the ultraviolet spectrum, they can detect the glowing urine trails left by voles as they crisscross the ground. Knowing where your food travels is a big advantage when hunting.

American Kestrels don’t enjoy top predator status, so they too are hunted.  They fall prey to hawks, owls and even crows. Therefore, it’s important to be vigilant, especially when you hunt from on high.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, The Sibley’s Guide to Birds