Monday, September 28, 2015

Cooper's Hawk Juveniles

Keeping yourself entertained while your parents are hunting is a struggle for a first-year Cooper's Hawk.

One can only stretch and twist, bounce and bob for so long before it becomes boring.

I discovered two young Cooper's Hawk siblings in Lake Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One examined my every move while the other lost interest in me quickly.

Only able to fly short distances and unpracticed at hunting, they mark time together in a narrow park ravine.

With nothing to do, but wait to be fed, this is a good opportunity to explore one's own body...grooming is important.  Grooming removes dirt, debris and parasites, along with realigning the feather shaft for airworthiness.

People watching helped pass time, too.
If people and dogs stay on the path the Cooper's Hawks were content to hang around, provided a respectable distance was maintained.

But, I strayed one step too close.

That immediately prompted rethinking the margin of safety in the sibling minds.

Would they accept me?

The answer was 'no'.

They both flew away.

I would have enjoyed their company for longer, but it wasn't up to me.

I had all the pictures I was going to get this day.

(CORRECTION: I'm told the last three photographs in this story are not a juvenile Cooper's Hawk, but instead a juvenile Merlin. A Merlin has a faint malar (mustache) and a Merlin's tail is slightly different. I trust this is the case and I am noting it here to reflect that fact. The diet of the Merlin and the Cooper's Hawk is similar, with the Merlin taking other birds, mostly. Thanks to Todd Fellenbaum for sharing his knowledge of birds.)

But, I found juvenile Merlin in Theinsville Village Park, also in September.

He was quite agreeable with having his picture taken. He posed in a tall tree for longer than I cared to remain.

He seems to be giving me the equivalent of a high five, even though he doesn't have the digits for it. I doubt he knows the meaning of the gesture and had little to celebrate quite yet anyway.

 He too was waiting to be fed.

He is too young to hunt. He's safe in the park while his parents find food for him. His father has provided nearly all the food for his mother and him for the past ninety days. 

His care will continue until he's able to hunt the Merlin's main food...other birds and small rodents. 

He watches the people below as well as the fish in the river.  Poised for action yet still lacking the skills of a hunter, he never-the-less displays the potential of a powerful falcon.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cedar Waxwing

From tip-to-tail the Cedar Waxwing is a stunningly beautiful bird.

Sporting a black and tan colored topcoat with a lemony-yellow belly, the Cedar Waxwing looks to be dressed more in fine fur than feathers.

As a short, rather stocky bird with a square tipped tail, they give off an impression of being longer and leaner than factual.

The yellow tipped tail makes you wonder just how this evolved. Their wingtips display waxy red secretions giving the Cedar Waxwing half of its common name.

The slender black face mask adds a rakish mystery to the bird's image, too.

Males and females look alike.

Being social birds, if you see one Cedar Waxwing you will probably see more. They are a forest bird that spends a good portion of time near rivers and ponds.

Swooping and swirling over the water gleaning insects from the air, they rest only momentarily. They are an entertaining main attraction in the forest.

Insects add protein, but fruit is their primary food. Strawberries, raspberries, serviceberries, mulberries and dogwood berries make up the bulk of their diet.

In winter their food choices narrow. Cedar berries complete the Cedar Waxwing's story.

As noted on the Cornel Lab of Ornithology website:

Because they eat so much fruit, Cedar Waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol.

This Cedar Waxwing showed no sign of tipsiness and was quite coordinated at catching insects along the Milwaukee River in Mequon, WI. 

The Cedar Waxwing is a year round resident in the contiguous United States, although many summer in  Canada for breeding and raising their young. 

You could supply a food source for Cedar Waxwings by planting fruit bearing shrubs, thereby adding both interest and wildlife to your property.

Cedar Waxwing populations are stable in the US and even rising...a fortunate outcome for a beautiful bird. 

Credit: The Cornel Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds