I’ve been dabbling in bird feeding since February of this year, and have had my ups and downs, but I’ve chalked it up to experience, and I think I’ve got it mostly figured out. I’ve also got a few ideas for feeders come springtime, such as an oriole feeder, and setting up some hanging baskets and a hummingbird feeder to try to lure some more colorful birds in.
While my yard list is nowhere near as impressive as that of Pat Bumstead, in the last year I’ve managed to lure in House Sparrows, a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, a few Northern Flickers, the ever present Black-capped Chickadees, the odd House Finch or three, Black-billed Magpies, and of course, Rock Pigeons, which I’ve come to expect will regularly pick up the castoff seeds that the other birds throw onto the ground.
I live fairly close to downtown, and twice now I’ve been surprised to hear the sparrows, chickadees and magpies harassing something just outside, and the second time I heard it start up, I had my camera handy and was able to get outside and snap some shots.
In my research, I discovered that it’s not entirely uncommon or unheard of to find that a Sharp-shinned Hawk has taken down one of the birds at your feeder, and that in some cases they can stalk a feeder for days or weeks if it tends to be a reliable food source for them. Both times it appeared that it took down one of the House Sparrows, and each time it took nearly a week before my feeders were back to the numbers I’m used to seeing, so the birds probably have a decent memory for this sort of thing.
I often wonder how many other times birds have been taken at my feeders. Not only by these hawks, but by others, maybe Cooper’s Hawks, or even one of the neighborhood cats that I see wandering every once in a while.
The photos below are of one of these events. This Sharp-shinned Hawk took down a House Sparrow in one of the bushes next door, flew across the street with it, and then, as the Black-billed Magpies harassed it, it flew into the walkway between my house and my neighbor’s, allowing me to get close enough to watch it feeding. A warning though: some of these photos are fairly graphic, so if you’re averse to seeing “nature red in tooth and claw”, you may not want to look. Otherwise… enjoy?
After the initial kill, the Sharp-shinned Hawk flew across the street, where I was able to take these pictures from behind a parked car. The magpies harassed it until it flew back across the street, and into the walkway.
A car pulled up on the street out front, once again disturbing the hawk from its meal. It hopped up on the fence to finish it off, but it wasn’t too long before the Black-billed Magpies found it and started harassing again.
No matter. The Sharp-shinned Hawk finished its meal despite the annoyance, and flew off to the east. I wonder if I’ll see him again some time soon?
Posted by Dan Arndt