Sunday, November 27, 2016


The Verdin is a cute little bird about the size of a Black-capped Chickadee and just as flighty. They thrive in the southern border region of the United States and most of Mexico.

They are quite common, but hard to see. They bounce on branches with dizzying acrobatics in a search for food.

Being small sized, they dine on the tiniest of insects and spiders as well as wasp larvae, aphids and scale.

Birds play a huge role in the balance of nature. Without birds, all the pesticides in the world would not stop insects from defoliating our planet.

Secretive by nature in addition to small in stature, you need to be observant with a bit of luck to spot a Verdin.

Fortunately, Verdins forage at eye level in small trees and bushes, so if you are quiet and calm, they can be a beautiful bird to watch.

You might find a Verdin standing on one leg, holding a berry in his other foot and munching on it as he watches you.

He won't stay long, so enjoy the time you spend.     Allan        (Click any picture to enlarge.)

Credits: Audubon Field Guide, 
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Greater Roadrunner

   Born to run...perhaps rather preferring not to fly, a Greater Roadrunner is quite a challenge to catch.

Running with head and tail nearly parallel to the ground, the roadrunner uses its long tail as a rudder for balance.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

A roadrunner is a meat eater. In this case it's worm meat, but you get the idea.

Typical menu items include small mammals, snakes, lizards, centipedes, scorpions and even other birds.

          When threatened, the roadrunner displays a vivid orange and blue crescent behind each eye.

The colors inform other birds, as it did this Mourning Dove, that landing too close is unwise.

No further argument was necessary...the dove left.

Males and females look alike. They re-establish their lifelong bond each spring through rituals of dance and bowing. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Mating is equally orchestrated: the male roadrunner leaps onto his partner’s back while holding a mouse or other food offering, which both partners grasp as they copulate. Afterward he circles his mate, bowing, cooing and flicking his tail in a stylized display.

Born to run, yes, but the belief that the roadrunner always gets away from Wily E. Coyote is a cartoon myth.

Coyotes can easily outrun a roadrunner and are major threats to them.

Still, over a million roadrunners are estimated to live in this world. Sixty-two percent of them live in the Southwestern United States.

From Southern California and now expanding all the way east to Louisiana, the Greater Roadrunner is a survivor.


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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cooper's Hawk vs Mourning Dove

A ghostly bird image marks our patio window.

Windows remove millions of birds from this world every year. It's a modern danger birds don't see or understand until the last moment...often too late.

This crash resulted from of a high speed chase by a Cooper's Hawk.

Moments earlier a flock of Mourning Dove was cautiously collecting seeds among the rocks. The hawk's arrival was low and fast. Suddenly, they exploded in all directions. The hawk simply targeted the nearest and slowest.  This unfolded right in front of me...only the window glass separated us.

The Cooper's Hawk failed to capture a Mourning Dove in the air...the window nearly did her in.

She lay injured on the patio bricks delirious and drooping, not knowing what just happened. The hawk returned to pick her up, but saw me through the glass, fluttered in the air for a moment and flew away.

In this case, my presence was tipping the balance of nature in the dove's favor. Still, I chose not to remove myself from this event.

The hawk landed on a railing to assess the chances of reclaiming his prize.

If this is a male Cooper's Hawk he was likely only hunting for himself. But someday he must provide food for a mate while she sits on eggs for a month, and later to feed his family. This could be three months of continuous hunting for him. Missing a meal then could be serious.

He decided on his own to leave.

The Mourning Dove staggered to temporary cover under a chair. We both knew she was badly hurt. She had a neck wound and a damaged wing.

She remained in hiding throughout the next day. I put out food and water for her, but I don't know if she helped herself to it.

Nature was running its course.

A little food and water is all I'll do to further affect an outcome that happens thousands of times each day.


(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Sibley's Guide to Birds