Thursday, April 26, 2018

Common Raven

To call the Common Raven 'common' sounds rather dismissive to this gleaming black bird.

Common Ravens are widespread over the Northern Hemisphere from Mexico, the western United States, all of Canada and Alaska, and continuing into Russia.

A huge exception to the Common Ravens' range are the Great Plains States and most of the south. 

They are large birds, half-again the size of crows, highly intelligent and adapted to living alongside humans.

They are both graceful in flight and playfully acrobatic. One Common Raven was reported to have flown upside down for a half mile*.

(picture intentionally inverted)

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Males and females look alike.

This pair is nesting under a noisy and well used bridge in Oro Valley, Arizona. A pair nested here last year, too, but I'm not sure this is that same couple.

An assortment of large sticks and vegetation resting atop industrial plumbing forms their six foot nest.

One of the pair, I'm assuming the female, flushed as I passed under the bridge surprising both of us, but thankfully allowing for a picture.

She circled once beneath the bridge, perhaps to evaluate my intentions, before departing with a sharp verbal croak.

The fact that she was 'on the nest' and not 'building the nest' leads me to believe she may be sitting on eggs.

That is important bird work.
I left her alone.

Like the female, the male raven, if I have their sexes straight, wasn't all that thrilled with my presence either.

Using a street light for a perch, he projected a Poe-envoking posture that wasn't hard to read.

I must have been slow in my retreat though.

The female returned to escort me out from beneath the bridge, loudly croaking a second message to leave and return...


Saturday, April 21, 2018

White-winged Dove

I never really got what Stevie Nicks was singing about in her 80's hit song, 'Just Like the White-winged Dove,' although it gave the dove's name recognition one hell of a boost.

The song certainly went unnoticed by the bird,
but it grew to an annoying earworm for me.

The White-winged Dove's range in the USA is limited, albeit expanding. They are common in the states which border Mexico.

Tens of thousands of White-winged Doves are shot each year, notably in Texas, as sporting targets.

A slightly larger bird than the more widespread Mourning Dove, the White-winged Dove has adapted to humans and mingles with other seed eating birds at your backyard feeder.

As a vegetarian, seeds and grains make up most of the dove's diet.  A few small stones are also ingested to aid the gizzard in grinding up those tough main courses.

Bright red eyes against soft blue set off this finely feathered brown bird.

White crescents outline the wings and give the White-winged Dove its name.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

They're increasing in numbers, against many challenges.

Having a 'hit' song has no practical value for the ground foraging White-winged Dove. Keeping your cat indoors would be a big help though.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Texas Parks and Wildlife Management

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Your mental image of an owl may be a big strong shy stocky bird... the stealthy hunter in the night.

That is true, but that's not the role a Northern Pygmy-Owl plays. Northern Pygmy-Owls don't look like fierce predators, rather a small round headed ball of feathers with an in-your-face attitude.

They're more like, "You go away. I was here first."

These diurnal hunters perch proudly in the open, often getting mobbed by other birds when discovered.

The Northern Pygmy-Owl hunts mainly other birds, often taking sparrows, hummingbirds and chickadees. Small mammals, insects and lizards are part of this owl's diet, too.

It's a bird-eat-bird world out there in the woods. So, in turn, Northern Pygmy-Owls are hunted by larger owls.

As a defensive measure they seem to have 'eyes' in the back of their head. Two black spots mimicking eyes provide a degree of doubt in any attacker's mind.

Northern Pygmy-Owls live in mountainous areas ranging from Central America all the way to southern Alaska. That's where to look, if you're so inclined.

You won't have to search in the dark. Other birds will even help you find one. Listen for jays, nuthatches, wrens, warblers and many other birds mobbing the Northern Pygmy-Owl giving you its location.

That's a rather bold thing to do because, when caught off guard, all these 'mobbers' are food to the Northern Pygmy-Owl.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Great Horned Owl w/babies (disturbing pictures)

Something must die for something else to live.

I'd been watching this male Great Horned Owl for a couple of weeks whenever I walked the Big Wash behind our home in Arizona. The Big Wash is a dry riverbed.

We'd focus on each other, which is understandable for me being a wildlife photographer of sorts.  But what holds the owl's interest in me?

I should be an inconvenience to him... nothing more.
The expected behavior would be to fly away.

Eons of erosion have shaped these 100' Big Wash bluffs. Two Great Horned Owls have made their home in this one.

The male guards while the female sits on eggs. He watches the coming and going near the center hole entrance. He is the sole food provider for his mate during cold desert nights.

A serving of packrat was offered this time.

Now there are two extra mouths to feed. It looks, though, like the owlet on the left has been getting fed the most.

A little one, nearly buried between big sibling and mother, must be struggling to get any share of food.

Death is not uncommon among hatchlings when resources are scarce.

But food doesn't seem to be a problem in this case. Here the female finishes the feather, feet and bones of a meal that was likely fed to the strongest and fastest of the two owlets.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

I returned to the burrow again the next day. Now there's only one owlet.

Fratricide happens when there is a gap in hatchings. The first owlet likely is the strongest. It gets the most food. It follows so on down the pecking order. A pecking order is just that and the smallest takes the brunt of it.

You can't expect justice in nature.

More disturbing yet is when the mother feeds the remaining owlet the body of the departed.

Resist passing judgement on nature. It is what it is and it has been going on for millions of years. It's just life.

One owlet gets to live.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds