My husband caught this Merlin, he even has a kill in his claws!
Merlin pairs have been seen teaming up to hunt large flocks of waxwings: one Merlin flushes the flock by attacking from below; the other comes in moments later to take advantage of the confusion.
Merlins don’t build their own nests. Instead, they take over the old nests of other raptors or crows. They also use magpie nests, sometimes laying eggs right on top of the nest’s dome rather than inside the cavity.
Though it’s not much bigger than the more common American Kestrel, the Merlin is heavier and often appears considerably larger. As with most raptors, female Merlins are larger than males.
The name “Merlin” comes from esmerillon, the old French name for the species. Merlins used to be called “pigeon hawks” because in flight they look somewhat pigeon-like. Their species name,columbarius, is also a reference to pigeons.
Medieval European noblewomen—including Catherine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots—used Merlins for sport to hunt Skylarks. European and North American falconers continue to work with Merlins, hunting quarry that ranges from sparrow-sized to dove-sized.
The oldest known Merlin was at least 11 years, 11 months old. It was banded as an adult in New York in 1982 and recovered in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1993.
The last couple of days we have had a hatch of gnats going on….
Actually, I am not sure what type of insect it is but it happens every year at this time. They cover the Green Ash trees and fill the air. They cover you when you walk outside and are kind of icky. But this year it has attracted all sorts of birds…
We had a huge surprise in the bird feeder this morning…
We have never seen Blue Jays around our place.
Thousands of Blue Jays migrate in flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coasts, but much about their migration remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. No one has worked out why they migrate when they do.
Blue Jays are known to take and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but we don’t know how common this is. In an extensive study of Blue Jay feeding habits, only 1% of jays had evidence of eggs or birds in their stomachs. Most of their diet was composed of insects and nuts.
The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.
Tool use has never been reported for wild Blue Jays, but captive Blue Jays used strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets from outside their cages.
Blue Jays lower their crests when they are feeding peacefully with family and flock members or tending to nestlings.
At feeders in Florida, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Florida Scrub-Jays, Common Grackles, and gray squirrels strongly dominate Blue Jays, often preventing them from obtaining food.
The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.
The black bridle across the face, nape, and throat varies extensively and may help Blue Jays recognize one another.
The oldest known wild, banded Blue Jay lived to be at least 17 years 6 months old.
On Sunday, it was time to move sheep to new pasture. Their current pasture had been grazed down pretty well.
When Mark had went to open up the gate to the new pasture he found this little guy…
It appeared to have an injured wing and we didn’t want it to get crushed by the hooves of the sheep. It was moved several feet away, to the adjoining pasture that didn’t have grazers in it. The kids thought it was pretty cool!
Let the moving commence, out of the old pasture, across the road…
Migrating and wintering Tree Swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset and form a dense cloud above a roost site (such as a cattail marsh or grove of small trees), swirling around like a living tornado. With each pass, more birds drop down until they are all settled on the roost.
Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.
The Tree Swallow—which is most often seen in open, treeless areas—gets its name from its habit of nesting in tree cavities. They also take readily to nest boxes.
Tree Swallows have helped researchers make major advances in several branches of ecology, and they are among the best-studied bird species in North America. Still, we know little about their lives during migration and winter.
The oldest Tree Swallow on record was at least 12 years, 1 month old when it was captured and released by an Ontario bird bander in 1998
We spotted this little lady on the side of the road by Swiftcurrent in Many Glaciers…
Two distinct subspecies of Spruce Grouse exist. “Franklin’s Grouse,” D. c. franklinii, found in the southwestern portion of the range, in the mountains from Alberta southward, has an all black tail with small white spots on the feathers overlying it. The northeastern subspecies, D. c. canadensis, has a rufous tip to the tail and lacks white spots above the tail.
The Spruce Grouse’s crop can store up to ten percent of the bird’s body weight in food, to be digested at night.
The Spruce Grouse’s gastrointestinal organs change with seasonal shifts in diet. In winter, when the bird must eat more food to maintain its mass and energy balance, the gizzard grows by about 75 percent, and other sections of the digestive tract increase in length by about 40 percent.