Monday, June 28, 2010

Behavior: Raven Nest, Cowbird Fledgling, and Cottontail Rabbit

Having seen wing pulling as a disciplining behavior in Crows, and read about foot biting in that species as well, I wondered if Ravens, being Corvids, displayed the same behavior. I asked Jeff Kollbrunner to keep an eye peeled for it, and sure enough there it was. He even got photos.

Here are images of the Queens, NY Ravens taken since June 2nd.

They started to leave their nest at the beginning of June and walk on the steel I beam that supports the water tower as seen in the associated images. One of the June 2nd images has all three young Ravens standing together.

On June 3rd early in the evening with very low flat light providing only a silhouette with little detail the parent disciplined one of the youngsters. It started biting and tugging the wing at the shoulder

and then a few minutes later started biting and tugging hard the toe of the youngster. In all instances the young Raven vocalized very loudly, clearly wasn't happy and tried to pull itself free of the parents grip. Each time after a few good moments the parent let go, this occurred a few times over the course of ten minutes. There was food next to the young Raven, after the disciplining the parent took this remaining food located on the steel beam and brought it over to the young Raven sitting in the nest and fed it the remnants of this meal.

On June 5th one of the young Ravens left the safety of the water tower and landed on a satellite dish mounted about six feet off the ground on the side of a home about 100 feet away. It used the dish as shelter and shade from the intense heat (90+ degrees) of the afternoon sun. Later in the day all the young Ravens were back on the water tower.

June 8th, two of the Ravens returned to the nest for a long while before venturing back onto the steel beams to exercise and play with the wires.

It appeared one of them was not accounted for today while I was there for two hours but it could have been hiding on one of the beams and not visible. They are doing very well and have been all over the water tower the last week, even landing on the grass and shrubs below. At the end of the day they still return to the steel beams near their nest.

Over the next few days I will create a Raven Gallery on my site and post additional Raven images to that gallery. Our Briarwood Red-tailed Hawk fledgling is doing very well it is out of the nest for a couple weeks now, looking very strong in flight and getting around. Last night I added new images of the fledgling to the Nest Photos 2010 gallery with more to come soon.

All the best, Jeff

A Cowbird fledgling foraging without a foster parent.
The young bird knows there is a watcher but continues anyway. I've noticed that there is often a several day lag between when the foster parent isn't seen with a young bird and when a female cowbird then gathers in the fully functional young bird to her group.
In the meantime the young bird is very alert and seems to be watching other birds, people, rabbits, bugs, even more attentively than other fledglings.
The other day a female cowbird who already had one fledgling with her made one of the display moves which is part of the male courtship dance in the sight of a second fledgling. She pointed her beak straight up at the sky and froze for a moment. The second fledgling then trotted up and joined the other two. Whether this is an attention getting move for youngsters who have wondered off or whether a cue to activate an inborn behavior for the young bird to join a cowbird group, or conceivably something else altogether, I don't know. It's the first time I've seen it in the presence of fledglings.
Tiny Jolly Bunny is a bit bigger now and was out eating dandelions and grass. She'd pluck a leaf and it would methodically disappear by degrees into her mouth. Then suddenly she stopped in mid-chew and stared for a very brief moment.
She made a jump.
And another...
...gathering speed. Why?
Because across the way, near the Spruce, that's got to be Mom. I'd suspected that the nest was under the Spruce tree as Jolly Bunny always comes and goes from there.
At first I thought Jolly Bunny was running for Mom, which in a way she was, but she didn't go to Mom, she scampered under the Spruce, I assume, hoping that Mom would join her for a little nursing session. And after a few minutes of leaf munching herself, mom did disappear under the evergreen as well.

OPINION June 27, 2010
Op-Ed Contributor: Losing the Owl, Saving the Forest
How the Endangered Species Act saved forests in the Pacific Northwest.

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