Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Friends of Blackwater Wildlife RefugeEagle Cam, Doorstep, Juncos and Avian Eye Behavior

Yes folks, Pale Male and Lola are still "doing" the town.

2:47:30PM Male Junco is sitting hunkered down in the snow by the picnic table. He's gone into a defensive "freeze" and appears to be keeping an eye on the local Cooper's Hawk.

2:49:11PM Junco looks like he's going to make a break for it. He stetches up--freezes again.

2:49:21PM Then folds back in an instant with a wary look.

2:49:31PM He turns and notices me. I realize that though his head is turned in my direction, his eye is still looking towards the Cooper's. Look carefully at the iris which is dark and the pupil which is darker.
Birds are very visually oriented in nearly every instance of their lives and I've begun to see that not only do some birds have "false eyes" in their plumage to mislead, they also, as in this case, pretend to be looking one way with their heads, while actually looking somewhere else altogether with their eyes. (Excepting those birds whose eyes are fixed in their heads, such as Eagles, and have to move their heads in order to move their eyes.)

3:42:11PM Doorstep Dove is back on the doorstep in the position in which I first noticed her, well over a year ago. She's no fool. It is warmer up next to the door. Note the slight overgrowth of her beak which will disappear once it gets a workout on something tougher than fluffy snow.
3:47:50PM Friend, Doorstep's mate, sits on the glider in the snow keeping watch. At the least sign of anything he'll be off the glider and up into the Maple Tree. He's far shyer than Doorstep is. Either that or she'll put up with most anything for a little heat.

3:49PM Doorstep stands and considers walking out for a snack.

Speaking of avian eyes, notice how far Doorstep's eye protrudes. That location expands her field of vision exponentially compared with the position of human eyes.

3:52:40PM I didn't see him go but the Cooper's Hawk must be gone as the Junco's have come out of the Spruce Tree and from under the picnic table for a pre-roost knosh.

4:17:03PM The lone remaining female Junco does the double-footed- Junco- kick-back to expose seeds. Why she remained with the males when the other females left, I've no idea.
One day a few months back after the Cooper's became a regular visitor and we'd just had a big snowfall, I noticed there were only male Juncos in the feeding area. Then one female appeared later in the day. The other females have never reappeared. I know they all didn't get eaten overnight therefore I'm surmising they decided to take off for places unknown in mass.
Perhaps something female Juncos sometimes do in winter comparable to the more southerly vacation taken by female Kestrels? Though hen Kestrels are thought to make the trip because they need more calories per day as they are larger and the prey is more plentiful further south. If anything female Juncos are smaller than the males.
So far no luck in finding an explanation but I'll keep looking.

Speaking of Solo the female Junco, there she is staring into the kitchen. Is she interested in the decor or is she just keeping track of me while she warms her feet? I'm betting it's the heat.

4:31:43PM And here I'd thought all the House Finches had taken off a month or so after the female Juncos. No, here's another independent soul out for a good meal.

Courtesy of Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge--Eagle Cam

Dad is piling grass on Mom while she incubates the eggs for some inexplicable reason. At least inexplicable to us and by the looks of it inexplicable to Mom as well. Though last season she piled a pine bough on Dad while he was incubating the eggs. Now she dumps the grass and gives Dad "the look" over her shoulder.

Do check out the Blackwater Eagle Cam and blog. It's a fascinating site full of wonder. Also quite addictive when it comes to comparing nest behavior of Red-tails and Bald Eagles.

Donegal Browne

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