Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feeder fiends

I find myself in a position where I have lots of photos to share, and trying to figure out the best way to present them. I captured images of 3 separate creatures today that I originally thought would each get their own post, but then it hit me that they do share a common bond in that they all are not readily welcomed at our bird feeders for various reasons.

Here's our first culprit:

The squirrels are so dang cute that I find it hard to be mad at them for stealin' all our seed. Luckily they don't seem to be doing much damage to our feed supply right now, and given the great number of them that I see running around in the woods, the fact that we only have 1 at the feeder seems to be a lucky thing.

Our next culprit (I feel like the music from "People's Court" should be playing in the background):

Often characterized as a feeder bully, the Blue Jay is one bird I can't get enough of. I just think they are so beautiful. I'm mesmerized by all the different shades of blue in their feathers. They've just started coming in to our feeders, and for a bird that is gets a bad rap for being rude and aggressive, they seem to be awfully skittish when they see movement inside the house. This handsome bird didn't stay around long enough for me to get many shots, and I've yet to get any photos of a jay on the feeder.

Finally, our last culprit, an accipiter:

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this is a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Let's weigh the evidence, shall we?

Range: Both are year-round residents of Ohio, so that doesn't narrow it down.
  • Cooper's - 15-20 inches (about the size of a Pileated Woodpecker)
  • Sharpie - 9-13 inches (about the size of a Blue Jay)
I guessed it to be about 14", Dave guessed it to be about 18". Hmmm... those numbers combined lean us toward the Cooper's. And it DID seem larger than a Blue Jay.
  • Cooper's - long, rounded and barred, ends in white band
  • Sharpie - long, barred, ends w/a squared tip

Grrrr....! The end looks squared to me (Sharpie), but it certainly looks like it ends with a white band (Cooper's).

  • Cooper's - Dark crown contrasts with nape
  • Sharpie - Crown and back similar in color

It's kind of hard to see in the picture, but I think the crown seems to be darker than the back feathers (Cooper's).

I guess the evidence is leaning toward a Cooper's Hawk. Unfortunately it never turned around, so I never got a good view of its front, but I don't think that would have aided in the ID.

Here are a few more pics:

Here are 2 poor little Chickadees that stayed frozen in place for about 10 minutes while the hawk hung out.

The hawk was probably about 70 yards away from the feeders, always with his (?) back to them, but he would frequently turn his head 180-degrees and check out what was going on behind him. After a while the hawk flew farther away, now maybe about 100 yards away, which our feeder birds determined was a safe enough distance for them to resume their normal activity of chowing down.

This is the second time I've seen a hawk in the last 3 weeks, which is unusual. It's not unusual for me to see the feeder birds "freeze" and alert me to the fact that there's a big baddie in the area, but I rarely ever spot to culprit. Now if I can just decide on that bigger camera lens, maybe I'll be able to get some better (closer) pictures the next time he comes around!

By the way, for those of you with more experience with hawks at your feeders, please let me know in the comments of you think my guess of the Cooper's Hawk is correct. Thanks!

Sources: Cornell Lab's "All About Birds" webpages


Kelly said...

...your little squirrel is so cute that I have to love him even if he is a thief, and your bluejay photos are beautiful. I like them too--they are very polite at my feeders, and so pretty. And I had to laugh as you went through the hawk decision-making process!! It sounded like my husband and I as we tried to figure out if our new hawk was a red-shouldered hawk. Thanks!

NW Nature Nut said...

I used to think I could tell the Cooper's and Sharpies apart, but now I am more confused than ever. Notice that I didn't try to ID the one that I recently posted, just for that reason. I think the one I had was a Cooper's. Not sure about your's! I love your Blue Jays. We have Scrub Jays here and the occasional Steller's Jay. Blue Jays just have incredible colors in their feathers.

Tomorrow I will try to remember to check out your webcam. Last time I looked it was a Doggie Cam. It made me smile.

Shellmo said...

I always have such a hard time telling the coopers and sharp shinned apart. I wish they would stand together! Beautiful photos either way! Now I have to go check out your webcam...

RuthieJ said...

When I worked at Wild Birds Unlimited, the Bluejay lovers and haters were pretty evenly divided. I always did what I could to tip the balance towards loving them. It's sad that more people don't appreciate them and I'm glad you do Heather.

I'm going to agree with the Cooper's Hawk ID also--especially based on your size estimates. I will sometimes see the Cooper's in my yard perched on branches or feeders, but the Sharp-Shins are much harder to spot when they're around.

Heather said...

I'm glad to hear that everyone else has a hard time differentiating the Cooper's/Sharpie, too. Not really glad, but you know what I mean. Glad everyone's enjoying the cam and getting a chance to see ALL of the animals, including our dogs.

James said...

I saw a Cooper's of a Sharp-shinned on Christmas Day right above the feeders. Couldn't tell what he was, but he had something. He hung around until the Blue Jays drove him off. That's another reason I like Blue Jays coming to my feeders. Since then I haven't seen the hawk, or for that matter, very many house sparrows. All the other birds are still around though.