Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Krider's Hawks, John Blakeman on Urban Nest Materials, Where Did the Expression Dickey-Bird Come From, and the Franklin Institute Hawks...

Well, good readers, Blogger has done it again. It has decided not to load anymore photos and as Jane of Georgia has sent photos of the owls and their habitat and a descriptive email, I think I'll wait for the top half until blogger feels better.


Remember I said I’d ask Red-tail expert John Blakeman about the songbird mobbing of brief duration outside your owl house just in case he’d run across the behavior before? He does have a broad and varied experience with birds so one never knows, Find his response which made me giggle below—


I can't offer any perspectives on this mobbing behavior at an owl's residence. I just simply have no experience with nesting screech owls, other than having put my gloved hands into a bunch of screech owl boxes, pulling out winter-roosting screeches for banding.

The behavior of the dickey-birds is beyond my understanding.

--John Blakeman

It was the use of dickey-birds as being something beyond understanding that got me. Exactly where the expression dickey-bird comes from, I've yet to figure out. Though I’ve been waiting for the answer to manifest itself for years.

My first experience with the use of “dickey-bird” occurred decades ago when I was being teased, in a good natured way, about how anyone could possibly be interested in such an insignificant topic as songbirds and to add insult to injury, interested in their insignificant behavior besides. by Dr. Gross, who’s PhD had lead him to be an expert when it came to vernal ponds, and the insect life that such ponds nurture. Some might say he was interested in dickey-bugs, hence the humor.

The second usage of dickey-birds occurred when I was wearing my other hat and playing Mrs. Ogmore-Prichard, a character who spends her time berating her two dead husbands, in Welshman Dylan Thomas’ play, Under Milkwood. The reference was to a picture on the wall that featured dickey-birds. I delved but it was another dead end. References but no real definition.

Then several years ago, John Blakeman used it. Wow! But it turns out we both knew what it meant but had no idea where it had come from. An inside biology joke?

The earliest reference I’ve found was to a Mother Goose Song published in 1765. Why dickey-bird (or Dickie-bird)?

So after all of that, does anyone out there happen to know why a small and possibly “insignificant” bird is a dickey-bird? Happen to have an Oxford handy?

Screen capture courtesy of http://sunnydixie.blogspot.com/

The Franklin Institute Nest now has two cams, one above the nest and one on the shelf.

As to what is going into the bowl of this urban nest, paper, plastic and other urban detritus, here are hawk expert John Blakeman's thoughts--

Well, to us, it's street trash. Not to the hawks. It's all soft and easily carried to the nest, where it will be re-worked and tucked into the bottom of the nest to help seal the bowl.

Actually, here in Ohio in the more normal rural nests we seldom see this. Out here, the birds are picking up corn leaves and some tree leaves from the ground, which serve the same function. These larger, more bulking lining materials are brought to the nest in January and February. In March (generally) more fine-grained lining materials will be brought in.

Linings vary from pair to pair and geographically. The birds use whatever is available and works. Strays sheets of The Inquirer, paper bags, and even some wafting plastic bags are likely to turn up at the Institute nest in these months. It will be interesting to see what will be used as the more final, softer lining materials in March. Fist-fulls of grass are often brought in.

Don't be surprised if some of these larger lining materials just disappear. The birds will carry them off or dump them over the edge if they don't seem to work well into the nest bottom.

Now, the birds are getting near the end of big-sticks stage. They have a profound urge to bring things to the nest. Not all that they bring in really works, so a few things are hauled off or allowed to tumble away."

-- John Blakeman

Next up, Robin of Illinois, with her comment and a link--

"The news of Pale Male's death is greatly exaggerated."

(Pale Male is, of course, NOT dead. But some interesting research about Krider's Hawks the very pale subset of the Red-tailed Hawk family in the piece. By the way, so there is no confusion, though pale, neither Pale Male nor Pale Beauty is a Krider's Hawk

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