I stopped to watch a Red-shouldered Hawk working on her* nest late last month. The nest was just above the Spring-to-spring Trail at Lake Monroe Park.
Found a good stick
Another good stick for her nest
Red-shouldered Hawks are very protective parents. While I watched this bird prepare for her family, I thought about a couple of Florida Red-shouldered Hawks that made the news last spring for dive-bombing people who ventured into their territory during nesting season in Melbourne and Sarasota.
The nest in the middle of the picture
Like the bird I was watching, these other birds made their nests in relatively high-traffic areas. I wonder if this bird and her mate will attack bikers, walkers and joggers on the Spring-to-spring Trail in the coming months? I hope not. I’ll be on their side, though, if it happens.
Off to get more sticks!
*Both male and female Red-shouldered Hawks participate in nest-building and -refurbishing. I am not nearly familiar enough with these birds to know if I was watching the male or the female of the pair; I could not judge its size. I just used “she” for convenience.
A fat frog or toad must surely be a prized meal for a wader like a White Ibis. Unless, of course, it’s too big to eat.
The other day at Gemini Springs I noticed an ibis being pursued by others in a flock of about 20 birds. The ibis had something large in its bill.
The bird managed to get away from its hungry friends and began manipulating the prey, but it was a struggle. At first I thought the ibis had a large crab, but it looks like the prey was some type of frog or toad, puffed up as a defense mechanism. The puffing process may have saved it. I watched the hapless ibis work on the amphibian for a few minutes, but the ibis eventually gave up and dropped its prey.
Later the flock of ibis moved to a shallow part of the spring run to feed and preen. Hopefully the hungry ibis was able to find more suitable prey here.
*Naturally the ibis did not intent to literally inhale its prey. But inhale rhymes with fail… get it?
White Ibises are extremely common here in central Florida. We see them in parking lots and in our neighborhood, foraging in suburban front yards, almost as often as we see them in more natural areas.
While I see these white birds quite often, I hadn’t really noticed one preening before I stopped to watch a particular bird in a small flock along the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot last week. I must have seen them preening before, I just never stopped to pay attention until that moment.
According to the Birds of North America Online, White Ibises “spend much of the day preening, […] usually at day roosts. […] Back preened directly by turning head, lower belly by placing head between legs.” BNA goes on to explain in detail how they preen other body parts (what a resource!), but I only was able to witness this bird getting busy with its backside. 🙂
Watching birds do what they do is always interesting, and I was especially interested watching this individual taking care of feather maintenance with its unusual bill. The back didn’t seem too tough a spot to preen. I would love to see that belly move though – it sounds like quite a move!
The other day at Gemini Springs I watched a pair of Pied-billed Grebes swimming around the fishing pier. During a period in which they were swimming on the surface for a long period, I took a video of the little water birds, setting my camera on the pier railing. After I started recording, an Osprey flew close over where I was standing, and I lifted up my binoculars to watch it hunting.
It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the camera captured two interesting moments with the grebes. First, right at the start of the video, one of the grebes cast a pellet!
Birds cast pellets which consist of undigested materials. I bet a lot of birders are familiar with owls regurgitating pellets; dissecting pellets is a popular educational activity for school kids and anyone can actually purchase owl pellets online for this purpose. But owls are not the only birds that cast pellets after meals. Kingfishers, corvids, herons, swallows, shorebirds and others all cast pellets of varying sizes. The pellet cast by the grebe seems quite large in proportion to the bird when I think about the size of pellets cast by Barn, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, American Kestrels, and Red-tailed Hawks (the species pellets with which I am somewhat familiar).
The other behavior I caught on video was the second grebe doing a submarine move – appearing to submerge in place, rather than a more typical flamboyant diving movement. I’ve never seen this behavior before, but it’s apparently quite normal, judging from the Google results when searching grebe submarine.
Since I was watching the Osprey while my camera shot the grebes, I didn’t get to see either of these interesting moments with my own eyes. Thank you, camera! I will pay extra attention to the grebes who seem to be settling in at Gemini Springs for the winter, and hopefully I’ll see some interesting behavior like this. Who knows?!
I stopped along the Spring-to-spring bike path in DeBary to watch a Red-shouldered Hawk perched along the edge of the forest. The path is heavily used and I didn’t think the bird would mind my stopping. I was right. Shortly after I settled in to take some photos, the bird casually stretched its wings and roused. It was still perched when I left a few minutes later.
Earlier this month Arthur and I visited Viera Wetlands and the nearby Click Ponds. I had read a lot about the Click Ponds this summer, especially since they hosted some great birds in July and August, but we couldn’t get out there until September 8th. One of our best birds was a very cooperative Roseate Spoonbill, an individual that gave us our best looks ever of this magnificent species. We used our car as a blind and watched the bird preen, feed, and loaf around.
After a marathon preening session the bird fed in the shallow water. It’s always fun to watch spoonbills feed in their unique way. They move their heads back and forth with their long bills in the water; when something to eat comes in contact with the bill – snap!
And later it was time for even more preening. 🙂
I’ve submitted this post to this week’s Bird Photography Weekly. BPW is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!
I saw my first Black Skimmers back in April by Merritt Island. Although they had the expanse of the Indian River behind them, these birds were more interested in a puddle at a turnoff on the Max Brewer Bridge. We got to watch them do their thing – fly over the puddle with lower mandible dipped in the water.
It was very cool to see but also kind of hard to watch, because the water was so shallow and they would hit their beaks on the rough pavement below. It gave me goose bumps, and not in a good way, but it was fascinating how they would recover so quickly from each mini obstruction. Their heads would bend down ever so slightly with each hit, and then recover to a normal position. This all took place in a microsecond and multiple times during each pass over the puddle.
While interesting to watch, unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any pictures or video of this behavior. I found a clip on YouTube which shows the normal feeding behavior of these birds: Black Skimmers feeding. I hope you’ll enjoy this collection of photos that I did manage to capture.
Back in February, during a light snow, I noticed a few Mourning Doves loafing on the shelter frame on our back patio. Two of them must have been in the mood for love because they started allopreening – pecking and grooming each other about the head and neck. Allopreening is one of my favorite bird behaviors to observe. The last time I got to watch birds do this was back in September 2010 when I watched a pair of Eurasian Spoonbills going to town.
Allopreening, a form of appeasement behavior, occurs between mates during pair formation and consists of gentle nibbling of feathers in head and neck regions with beak; seen during nest-site selection activities, nest-building, prior to copulation, and occasionally during nest exchanges. Displacement, or ritual preening, may be exhibited when close to a mate.
I think some displacement may be going on here as well, but I didn’t see any copulation (bummer, haha!). In the second half of the clip, the bird on the left flutters its wing, a behavior I would normally associate with food-begging in either courting females or hungry juveniles. Although the birds were not feeding, I wonder if this is another common courtship behavior? From the wing-fluttering and the grooming behavior of both I am guessing the male is on the right and the female on the left.
Looking further at the Mourning Dove account on BNA, I learned two interesting terms associated with their courtship behavior. First is the charge, in which the male approaches the female with head held horizontally forward, tail pointed horizontally back, and whole body raised. And then there’s the totally cute term bow coo (which I keep reading as “boo cow”), in which the male bows head and body until head nearly touches ground [≤ 10 times], rises to very erect position, holds head forward, and utters loud coo. Have you seen these behaviors in Mourning Doves before? How about allopreening?
You never know what kind of behavior you’ll see from a bird blind. If the blind is good (and the birders are quiet), the birds should be comfortable and you’ll get to see them acting naturally. From the Grauwe Gans hide in the Oosvaardersplassen area, I spent some time watching a pair of Eurasian Spoonbill allopreening. Allopreening is mutual grooming, usually associated with pair bonding. Spoonbills have such long, unhandy-for-self-preening bills, I’m not sure this is pair-bond behavior or simply a mutually beneficial preening co-op between friends. Notice the surrounding geese are also taking the time to beautify themselves. Click on any picture to embiggen.
A few weeks ago the first Baltimore Oriole sightings were reported locally on IBET. When I read the first report, I put a few orange halves out in the back yard. Orioles (and others) nommed our oranges a few days last spring, and I have been hoping we will be lucky again. So far, no joy. Meanwhile, the oranges are not going to waste.
I noticed a male bird feeding orange to what I first presumed to be a female finch.
This is actually a juvenile begging.
See the White-crowned Sparrow in the video, to the left side? He was really interested in the orange, and when the finches moved on he quickly went to check it out.
I think the verdict was “this is not food.”
The oranges even managed to attract a Red-bellied Woodpecker, who shunned the available suet for some citrus delight — although he may be snacking on ants attracted by the fruit.
Do you put oranges out for your yard birds? Do other birds enjoy them too?