A studio for bird study

Tag: prey

Gluttony and the Great Blue Heron

by Bryce W. Robinson

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The other day I observed a Great Blue Heron- Ardea herodias, that had caught a fish seemingly too large to handle. The above image is directly after the bird had speared the fish, and was working on a way to get the meal down its throat. Yes, I did say spear. Before this instance, I was under the impression that herons never speared their prey, rather they stabbed at the prey only to grasp it in its bill. This bird speared the fish, effectively killing it, then retrieved it from the water. I believe that if the bird had not done so, the large fish would have been too strong as it struggled to escape the herons clasping bill.

I also was taken aback at the size comparison this photo illustrates between the Herring Gull- Larus argentatus, and the Great Blue Heron. Heron’s seem like such large birds when standing alone. Anyway, I took a sequence of photos of the heron struggling the fish down its throat. The sequence is as follows:

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IMG_2815You can see in the last photo where the fish still sits in the birds body. This will undoubtedly take a while to digest. I was impressed in the least. I absolutely love seeing predators eat, and the heron is one bird that always delights. I once came upon a photo of a Great Blue Heron that had killed and was holding in its bill a Least Bittern, about to consume the close relative. How bizarre.

Anyway, I felt lucky to see this instance, even luckier to capture it on film.

 

Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis Consuming Prey

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

I took this video the other day. At the beginning, you can see the bird reject the intestines of the rodent. Everything else is consumed. It is a bit long, but worth a watch. The hawk gets very animated towards the end. It is quite the treat to view, as a great deal of detail is visible.

I wonder about this bird. In the winter, it is difficult to distinguish visitors from residents. This is a unique looking bird. White on the lores, crown, and supercilium is not common amongst Utah’s western Red-tailed Hawks. Perhaps this is a bird from the north country. One cannot be sure, but it is fun to wonder.

Rough-legged Hawk Feeding

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

I found this male Rough-legged Hawk the other morning. Delighted that he was enjoying a morning meal, I decided to make another attempt at digiscoping with my phone and scope. It turned out great. The video quality is what is expected out of a phone camera and scope, but it adequately illustrates the feeding behavior. It is a bit long. Some of the most interesting behavior is towards the end. If you grow tired of watching the bird consume, at least catch the last thirty seconds.

The video is also best viewed without the sound on. I added some comments for my own personal notes. My nerdy commentary and some passing vehicles may detract from the video, so I suggest lowering the volume. Enjoy!

by Bryce W. Robinson

Dark Morph Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis

The past few months have been full of incredible encounters with the winged world. Recently I found a young Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a fence post along the roadside. I stopped to photograph the bird, as is my custom. I took notice of the dark coloration of the bird, which always excites me. As is possible in winter, I always get excited about dark Red-tailed Hawks and the possibility that they might be Harlan’s. I recently posted about how to distinguish between dark juvenile Westerns and Harlan’s. As I described, it is easy to see that this is a dark Western, not a Harlan’s. Still, I love the chance to see all of the diversity in the species.

What struck me about this particular bird was not anything dealing with plumage. I noticed a large clump of grass in the birds talons. Chuckling, I passed it off as a missed attempt at some prey, coming away with only a healthy talon full of weeds. I didn’t even raise my binoculars to check. Luckily, the photo tells the story. This young bird was successful in obtaining a morning meal.

It tickles me to find myself with a photo of a bird clutching its prey. The story continues, however. The bird lit off of the pole, headed away from the highway to a more secretive feeding spot. I was taken aback as a large tumbleweed flew with the hawk. I couldn’t help but laugh. In the desperate attempt to glean a morning meal, the youthful raptor grabbed more than its target, and couldn’t risk releasing the extras until it began consuming the meal.

I’ve seen some peculiar and comical behavior from young birds in the past. At the beginning of the migration season, I observed a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk grab a pine cone from a tree. It soared about for some time, regularly checking the object in its talons. One can only speculate as to what this bird was doing, but it was quite the sight, to be sure. These special instances display the character that birds possess, only becoming apparent with detailed observation, too often overlooked.