Monday, March 19, 2007

An amazing sight

Just this afternoon, I heard a thump on the side of the house, a bang on one of the front windows then a dark shape flying past the window. I first thought it was a couple of snowballs that some kids were throwing but when I looked out the window, a Sharp-shinned hawk was sitting in the road. I thought it had flown into the window as some birds do and was stunned. At first I didn't see that it had something black under it but when I looked more closely I saw it caught a blackbird. I could see red epaulettes so it was a red-winged blackbird. I got my camera with 17x zoom but when I opened the door to my amazement the hawk took off carrying the blackbird. As soon as that happened another hawk that I didn't see further in the neighbor's yard across the street flew off after the other one - probably its mate. I couldn't believe that the small hawk could carry a bird more than half its size. Unfortunately no pictures.

I had to look it up in my Birds of North America book. The Red-winged blackbird is 7.5-9.5 inches in length and weighs 2.3 ounces. The Sharp-shinned hawk measures 10-14 inches in length and weighs 3.6 ounces. So it's flying with 2/3 again its total weight. Pretty impressive.


Blogger DragonStone said...

It's always interesting to see moments like that (especially frustrating when you want to take a picture but completely miss it) and learn something new from it.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

An episode of Nature out your own window, Ki? Pretty cool for the spectator, though not for the redwing.

It seems that all our white-winged doves would be a tempting banquet, but we see vultures eating squirrels rather than hawks taking doves.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

3:00 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Dragonstone, by the time you grab the camera the event is over or the subjects are gone. Frustrating indeed. I should have grabbed my regular camera not a foot away from me when this happened and shot from the window instead of going for the long lens. Oh well, another missed moment in trying to chronicle life.

Took me completely by surprise Annie. Poor blackbird but I would have felt really badly if it had been a less abundant bird like a nuthatch or wren. The hawks take a fair amount of doves. I haven't witnessed the chase and kill but I see the feather remains of doves everywhere. Must be the hawk's favorite meal.

I read in an old 1917 bird book I bought at a library sale that the sharp-shinned likes to take flickers, probably because its size provides a pretty substantial meal. If the flicker sees the hawk in the stoop all it has to do to avoid getting killed is to go around the tree, putting the trunk between it and the hawk. Apparently young flickers panic and try to escape by flying which is disastrous for them. I've seen flickers here that are so shy that as soon as I appear within 50 feet, they go around the tree so I can't see them. Frustrating for me but probably a learned experience from dealing with hawks. I have not seen remains of flickers in NJ. They must have passed on the smart gene to their progeny.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous The County Clerk said...

I have some Red-Tailed Hawks and they are beautiful. We hate to see the blackbird get it, but that the way it is. I'd love to see your hawks.

By the way, I've tagged you for a meme (sorry)

11:25 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

County clerk,
Uh, thanks I think? I had to look up meme, reread again what it was on your blog and still have only a vague idea of what it actually is. You are much more savvy than I about the workings of the internet.

I'm much more visually creative than mentally trying to think up:
"5 Crazy Things You've ACTUALLY Done That Only Gardening Addict Would Understand (or admit to)." but I'm game. It may take some time to cobble up a list so I hope it won't be a redundant one.

I've seen a solitary red-tailed hawk in the neighborhood. It gets routinely mobbed by crows, blackbirds, and jays but stubbornly won't abandon it's territory. Must be lots of vermin for it to eat to tolerate the harassment. I'll get a picture of a sharp-shinned hawk one of these days especially now that they seem to be nesting close by.

The gender is male. I chose Ki because it was short and I hurriedly needed an easy name for the author of the blog. Not an especially wonderful nom de plume but it seems to be unusual in its brevity.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous The County Clerk said...

Ki - not a big thing. 3 steps.

1. write a post on THIS blog
2. leave a comment and link on mine
3. tag 5 more people

These things go around the world. maybe it is stupid. I donno.

Do it if you want. If not, it's cool too of course.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

County clerk,
Ah, the screaming memes. Like a pyramid scheme. Chaos theory and butterfly wings. Ok lets do it. See if it takes off.

4:18 AM  

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