Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Morning – Young Chipping Sparrows, Five Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

The front yard early this morning was full of the cheep-cheep-cheep of juvenile Chipping Sparrows. Two adults and at least two young ones fed in the grass and flew from place to place. One juvenile flew to the large branch of a pecan tree close to where I was sitting – enjoying a warm, sunny, peaceful Sunday morning – and stayed there for several minutes. At first, it called a quiet tsip-tsip-tsip, then it fell silent and just sat there, looking around, well camouflaged against the grayish rough bark of the branch. It looked like a pale, muted version of an adult Chipping Sparrow, with a pale brown head instead of the adult’s bright chestnut-red crown. Strong breezes tossed the leaves and smaller branches all around it, and for a while, the young sparrow hunched down on the branch. Then it sat up again, preened for a few minutes, cheeped again, and flew off toward the wax myrtle bushes.

A little later in the morning I went for a walk, and passed five Brown-headed Cowbirds feeding in the shade of pecan trees in a neighbor’s grassy yard. Four males – black with brown heads – were all following one brownish-gray female around. Several times, all four males pointed their bills up toward the sky and sort of strutted together for several steps. Two of the males, at different times, displayed toward the female, with head down, tail up, and wings spread out, but she ignored both of them and walked away, foraging in the grass. The males did not seem aggressive toward each other. They seemed content to hang out together, just tagging along after the female and hoping to be the lucky one, I guess.

In the power cut that runs across a field and continues on the other side of Highway 441, one Red-tailed Hawk and two Turkey Vultures were lined up, each one perched on a utility pole, soaking up the sun. When I got close, the Hawk leaned forward, spread its wings and flew, screaming hoarsely as it circled and climbed, at first quite low over me. It was a juvenile, very handsome against the blue sky, pale underneath and spotted heavily with dark brown across the upper breast, its head hooded in brown, and its tail finely streaked in several mousy shades of brown, tan, and white.


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