Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

A big Happy Independence Day from the BBFG writers: Buddy, Court, Hawkeye and me, Guy!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Monthly Bird #6: Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk, light morph adult.
 I've had many incidents with Red-tailed Hawks. Last year was really crazy: Driving home from errands with the family, a Red-tail almost hits our car! Spotting him landing in a tree, we all get out and walk over to him. By the time we all get over there, he's eyeing a squirrel with hunger in his eyes. Wow, this is amazing, I thought the entire time. I had never been this close to any wild raptor before. Eventually he got intimidated by us and flew off, looking almost disappointed he didn't catch breakfast. So then we got back in the car to drive home. In the distance, however, I could see him flying away. I like to think that he caught breakfast.

Also, last year I got to watch Red-tails nesting and raising young! I never came up with a name for the dad, but the mom was Jenny and their son was Ralphy. Ralphy was a troublemaker, always harassing other animals, and constantly asking his mom for food. I was a little disappointed when I figured out that the other two eggs never hatched, but even so, I still see little Ralphy everywhere.

Yet again, I had another incident with a Red-tail (not surprising): Jenny flew two feet over my head! I had no idea she was so used to humans! Wow.

When soaring, Red-tails hold their wings like Turkey Vultures.
Red-tailed Hawks come in tons of different colours, varying from off white to jet black. The most common ones are usually lightish brown, though. Being the most common and widespread raptor in North America, they are very adaptable. You'll find them everywhere. Everywhere except forests, that is. Their preferred habitat is open fields, where the hawks can find mice, rabbits, voles, wood mice, and sometimes large birds, such as grouse and turkeys. You'll see them carrying food less than an ounce to over five pounds!

What I'm getting at here is that no matter where you go hawk watching, you're sure to see a Red-tail or two.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sick and injured birds

You know, ever since the winter of 2013, I've been noticing a lot more sick and/or injured birds.

During the winter, it's mostly House Finches with conjunctivitis, a common disease both diagnosed in humans and birds, aka pink eye. On humans it's not really bad, but on birds it really is: The eye(s) becomes puffy and swollen, then they eye begins to look wet. It's just downhill after that - the eye gets all crusty. The bird eventually becomes blind, unable to find food, and, in most cases, will die. If you want to know more, visit the House Finch Eye Disease website or the House Finch Disease Survey.

In the spring, summer and fall, a lot of things can happen. Window strikes, fights (especially in the spring), cats, and human development. Just yesterday, my neighbor waved me down while I was going for a walk. "There's a bird here that just hit my window," she said. "It's not moving." When I went over to look at it, I saw it was a Grey Catbird. So I ran home to get gloves (can't be too safe, right?) and when I got back, I saw it had its beak open and some tail feathers were broken. I scooped the poor thing up, and he struggled to get away. I laid him in the grass so we could keep an eye on him. and what was the first thing that stupid bird did? Run into a different window! I tried to pick him up, but he flew across the street and landed on someone's roof. What worried me is that what if that bird was a mother and it had died? Then we would have just lost a generation of Catbirds! Breeding season in the worst time for birds to die. If you want to help prevent window strikes, consider getting decals. And read up on it at Bird Watcher's Digest's How to Solve Window Strikes page or read about Julie Zickefoose's solution.

Fights can lead to serious injuries, but only on rare occasions.

Cats (house and feral) kill over 1 million birds per year. It's really bad during migration, because what if there's some rare species going through your area? Cat + bird = avian disaster. And that's what's happening everywhere. You think your lazy couch potato cat is too couch potatoish to kill birds? Wrong! Even the fattest, laziest cats in the US contribute to this grave cause of many bird species' demise. Here's a stupidly simple solution that should've been thought of a long time ago: Keep your cats indoors! To learn more, visit the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors! campaign. If you want to spread the word, email, go door to door, and/or order brochures.

I won't go into human development because there's a lot of debate in that area, and I really haven't studied enough to have an opinion.

Lastly, if you see a feathered baby bird hopping on the ground, leave it alone! The parents are most likely nearby. For further reading, go to the Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education's I Found a Baby Bird. Now What? page.