Sunday, March 30, 2014

Late March Birding

Most birds have a song. And yet it's a little surprising there's only one North American bird we've included the word "song" for part of its name: the Song Sparrow (melospiza melodia). Here, at the end of March, the prairie parcel's chorus of birdsong is filled with their beautiful spring melodies.

They're really not that shy, just so long as you pretend not to notice them as you approach. Actually, quite a few species of birds will tolerate a closer-than-you-think-they-will distance if you simply avoid making eye contact with them. Extended observation reveals these sparrows have favorite singing perches. What I do is pick a perch that's in good light, and then wait for the sparrow to leave it before moving in. Once it flies off to its next perch, I prepare for its return.

A Song Sparrow may chip and chirp when you first arrive, or it might seem a little leery when it sees you upon returning to the perch where you're waiting, but it will eventually adjust to your presence. If there's another songster in close proximity, it won't take very long for the sparrow to burst into song.

Between song deliveries, the Song Sparrow will occasionally pause as if it's listening for responses. And the reality is that they are keenly listening to what other Song Sparrows are singing. If you've not yet read Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds, you really ought to check out the chapter on Song Sparrow song complexity.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened during my outing was observing a pair of Cooper's Hawks copulate. I found the female perched in the open and was able to get close enough to get some nice portraits of her. I knew there was a male nearby, but didn't expect what happened next.

She let out a series of kek kek kek calls, leaned forward...



And the entire "moment" was over in a few seconds. That's how it is in Cooplandia!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Mar 29, 2014 7:30 AM - 9:30 AM
36 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

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