Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter's Wrath

Mourning Dove with snow

Some iced feathers

Temperatures plummeted 25 degrees overnight as a winter storm moved into Wisconsin, so it was still above freezing with light precipitation as birds went to roost. Unfortunately, trouble loomed for them as the storm kicked into full throttle while they slept. This morning, the first sign was when I noticed several House Finches with loose or missing tail or wing feathers. Some iced-over finches couldn't fly very well, or not at all. Then I noticed a few Mourning Doves with missing tail feathers. Same thing with a few Northern Cardinals and Dark-eyed Juncos – some had no tail feathers left. Apparently, as they slept, their wet feathers became frozen to their perches. The only way to get to food this morning was to leave some or all of those feathers stuck to branches.

American Goldfinches

House Finches

Activity at our feeders was intense throughout the entire day, except when a hawk flew through looking for lunch. I took a few photographs of birds with missing tail feathers, but in the end I decided not to publish them. Some ice-coated birds could only hop – it was pretty pathetic and probably easy meals for hawks. I took one severely struggling male House Finch inside to thaw and dry before returning him to the wild. I also found a Mourning Dove with its feathers frozen to our patio railing and carefully removed it. Naturally, the dove panicked, so I let it fly away. All it left behind were a few feathers on the railing. Still, it seemed most of the birds fared well during the windy and snowy storm and found plenty to eat at our backyard feeders. I was pleased to see Common Redpolls throughout the day.

Common Redpolls

Just a little ruffled

Backyard birds – December 23rd, 2007:

Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Common Redpoll
House Sparrow

Northern Cardinal eating

Snow in the face

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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