Thursday, October 11, 2007

The little Bluebird as PREDATOR!

An Eastern Bluebird hunting from atop a wooden fence post. I was once told that part of the reason Bluebirds became rare was because people stopped using wooden fence posts. At the time, I thought that rotted posts with cavities must have made good nesting sites.

Which may be true but after watching her make ground sally after ground sally I realized that the wooden fence post is the perfect hunting perch for a predator her size. She's near enough to the ground to get a walking insect before it notices her coming and can get away.

Just like other avian predators, in fact like Pale Male watching for prey and prey patterns from a perch with a view. Notice the little bird version of "raptor focus". Once she's chosen what to go for and it's in the correct position, she'll be off the perch doing a mini-curved swoop of a couple of feet.

She nabs the insect with her beak, eats it, and returns to the perch for another go. She looks to be successful most every time. While when I watched another Bluebird the other day hunt from an electrical pole, a much higher perch, he didn't look to be successful as often. He often had to attempt mid-air grabbing as the bug had more time to see him coming. Or perhaps some of the insects weren't on the ground and Bluebird used the higher perch like a Peregrine would for grabbing lunch in mid-air.
And like hummingbirds they have the ability to hover. Rarely seen and usually only when reduced to eating berries when insects can't be found.
Now wait a minute, I've not seen them hover close enough or long enough to know how they do it. Do they really use a version of circular moves like a hummingbird as hummingbird wings are remarkably specialized and hyper fast or is it a combination of wing moves and getting the wind under them as a hawk does?

For whatever reason, and though I'd stood in the same spot any number of times, this female Red-bellied Woodpecker seemed very unhappy with my presence. She flew back and forth in front of me calling excitedly before perching in the tree and after a few more calls kept a close eye on me until I left.

And folks, today the Dark-eyed Juncos and the White-throated Sparrows appeared for the first time since their summer absence. And it was the first day this season where the temperature dropped enough that I had to wear a coat and gloves towards dusk. The two together? Yes, I'm afraid so. We're marching on towards Winter..
Donegal Browne

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