Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Double Teaming Coopers

Two young male House Sparrows, Passer domesticus
Remember when I saw the Cooper's Hawk chasing what I took to be a House Sparrow? Yesterday, I saw a male House Sparrow at the bath without his tail feathers. Coincidence? Maybe.
We'll get back to House Sparrows in a minute.

Today the sky was very dark, the day drizzly, and the temperature in the low 40s. All five squirrels were in the feeding area most of the time but there were virtually no birds for much of the day. Around one in the afternoon, a handful of Juncos appeared in the feeding area. They kept for the most part under the picnic table, between furniture legs, or between the glider and the table. Then all the Juncos were gone except one female who hunched down and went into a freeze.

Alert, but with her eye possibly on something which I can't see.

Within the next five minutes the Junco had turned and was looking toward the back two Spruces in the NW, one of the Junco refuges. Around one thirty she too had disappeared.
Suspecting that there must be a hawk out there somewhere, I went out, walked past the brush pile, a few House Sparrows flush out of the brush and race to one of the Junco's usual refuges, the Spruce in the NE corner of the back yard. I wonder around in the rain looking but I see no raptors.
I go back to paperwork, sitting at the table, but with the patio curtains open--hoping for a look at whatever is keeping the small birds out of sight.
A quarter after two, I catch the tell-tale flicker of movement in the corner of my eye and turn my head just in time to see the bottom half of a Cooper's Hawk lighting on a branch of a Maple. Partially obscured from my angle, she was next to the Spruce on the NE side of the yard which is also a refuge of the Juncos.

I get up from the table and have to go round it in order to get closer to the door in hope of a better sight line and in so doing can no longer see the hawk for a moment. Just as I come back to a place where I suspect I should be able to see the hawk, I don't. But what I do see is a male House Sparrow flying easily out of the Spruce and right up to where the hawk had been just moments before and then out of my view. What is that sparrow doing? The hawk has to be close.

Nothing for an instant and then BAM! A House Sparrow is flying west as fast as his wings can carry him with the Coop in hot pursuit.

In the episode I watched previously, the sparrow made evasive moves, changing directions, flying between branches, but this time the sparrow isn't making turns or changes in altitude. He is flying fast and straight to the West. The Coop is after him but the sparrow seems able to keep his two or three foot lead at least for now and then, I see a second Coop flying some 20 feet behind the first. Did the double teaming make a difference in the little bird's escape tactics?

Once again, though I tried, I did not see how it ended. Though last I saw, it looked to me that the House Sparrow was winning.

At sunset the Dark-eyed Juncos appeared under the feeder seemingly at ease, and fed up before going to roost near true dark. No Mourning Doves appeared for their evening meeting. Not even Doorstep Dove perched in her usual criss cross branched "safe spot" in the Maple nearest the house.

The feeder birds have moved to another feeding area for the moment. And since it is raining they don't even have to make a dangerous visit for water. Soon perhaps the hawks will move hunting grounds as well.

Donegal Browne

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