Bird Lady Blog

August 25, 2012

Hawks

Filed under: Cooper's Hawk,Red-Tailed Hawk — Munds Park Birding @ 3:05 pm
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Courtesy of Gordon Karre

Spend a little time looking up in the sky at the right places and you will mostly see these large soaring birds:  Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, and American Crows.  If you are lucky, you may also see flying overhead an Osprey or Great Blue Heron.  And if you are very observant, with a little good fortune, you may also spot the Red-Tailed Hawk or even a Cooper’s Hawk.  Both hawks can be seen in Munds Park, but far less often than the other species mentioned here.

A hawk is a raptor, which by definition means it is a bird of prey.  Raptors exhibit a variety of hunting technique and scan the surrounding terrain with telescopic vision.  They can see a mouse wiggle its nose from over 100 yards away.  What makes them unique in the bird world are their hunting skills, their binocular-type vision, and their feet with very strong toes and sharp talons.  Most of their prey die a very quick death, with the raptor’s talons driven into the prey’s body and causing almost instant death.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common hawk in the U.S.  It is a hawk of the open country, so you will most likely see it soaring above the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course or an open meadow or perched on a utility pole along the road. Like its name, a key identifier of this hawk is its red tail, although there are 14 variations of this species and not all have the brick-colored tail.  Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and may mate for life. They make stick nests high above the ground.  Both sexes incubate the eggs for four to five weeks and feed the young from the time they hatch until they leave the nest about six weeks later.  Red-tailed Hawks feed on primarily on small mammals.

The second hawk reported in Munds Park is a Cooper’s Hawk.  It was seen in residents’ back yard for a few days in a row, hunting song birds.  These Munds Parkers saw it take at least three birds.  Like the Red-Tailed Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk is found throughout the United States and has adapted quite well to urban and suburban areas.   It is medium-sized with red eyes and a black cap, with blue-gray upper parts and white under parts with fine thin, reddish bars.  The Cooper’s Hawk appears long-necked in flight when seen soaring above and has been described by birdwatchers as looking like a “flying cross”.  In the open, it flaps, flap, flaps, then glides for a while, and repeats.  These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise, and they prey almost exclusively on small to mid-sized birds.  So if you have a bird-feeder or yard that attracts American Robins, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, House Finches, Mourning Doves or Band-Tailed Pigeons, you may be visited by a Cooper’s Hawk that thinks your bird-feeder is its ticket to a daily meal.

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August 6, 2012

Munds Park Bird Walk


Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre; Immature Pied-Billed Greve

Our Munds Park Bird Walk on Sunday, July 15th, was held after a day and night of heavy rain.  However, a morning sun and blue sky greeted the dozen birders who met up in the Pinewood Country Club parking lot at 7 a.m.  We Munds Parkers were joined by two gentlemen from Mesa and one from Flagstaff, all of whom helped make our bird walk a very pleasant and informative session.

Our first stop was at the Pinewood Country Club golf course.  Because of the heavy rain the night before, golf was delayed for an hour, so we could bird to our heart’s content without interfering with any golfers.  We spent about 45 minutes at the pond between holes 1 and 18, and immediately we were rewarded with sightings of several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds.  We believe they have nested here this year because we spotted a couple of juveniles in the group. The Red-Winged Blackbirds, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Violet-Green Swallows were abundant, as were the American Coots.  We were treated to great looks at three recently-hatched Pied-Billed Grebes following a parent and begging for food.  A surprise was a young Red-Naped Sapsucker that was spotted by Gordon Karre, one of the men from Mesa, who had along his camera and recorded many of our sightings.

Next we moved on to Lake Odell.  We spotted the Osprey nest pretty easily, with no Ospreys in sight, but an unexpected find was a Great Blue Heron nest, again on the opposite side from where we were.  Through the spotting scope we were able to see at least one youngster in the nest, and later that week I received reports from two different Munds Parkers that they had seen the nest as well, occupied with more than one juvenile bird.  At the lake we saw Canada Geese, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, a male Ruddy Duck, Eurasian-Collared Dove, Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Western Bluebird, and Pygmy Nuthatch.

Our last stop was at two friends’ front yard on Turkey Trail.  We birders sat on deck chairs graciously provided by our hostesses and saw the following birds come to feeders and bird baths:  House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a Mountain Chickadee.  We were hoping for the Red Crossbills to show, but alas and alack, we were not that lucky that morning.  We have since heard they still show up almost daily, with a youngster in tow.

Shortly after 9 a.m. we called it a successful birding walk, and some of us went to the Pinewood Country Club as planned and had breakfast.  There we did a recap of our sightings and just visited with our new birding friends.  Zack Zdinak is the president of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society in Flagstaff and was a great help in finding and quickly identifying some of the birds we saw.  Gordon Karre, who came up to Munds Park for the cooler weather and birding, was our surprise photographer.  He has a blog with photos of many of the birds we saw.  Check it out at http://desertwing.blogspot.com/2012/07/munds-park-az.html.  This wonderful photo of a juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe is courtesy of Gordon.

For those of you who want to venture out of Munds Park for a day and participate in a bird festival, check out the first Hummingbird Festival in Sedona August 3rd through 5th.  You can find more information at http://www.hummingbirdsociety.org/index.php.  For hummingbird lovers here, remember that you do not need to and should not add red food coloring to your feeder sugar water.  Just one part of white sugar to four parts of water is sufficient.  The red feeder will attract the hummers, without the food color additives.

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