Friday, December 27, 2013

American Kestrel, Mountain Bluebird, Brown Thrasher

On Christmas Day, we headed out to see if we could snag some shots of some birds. It's been a while since we went out for that reason, so we were about due. On the way to Palo Duro Canyon, we stopped off at a couple of places to see what we could see.

Adjacent to a park at the edge of civilization, there is a field. This field seems to be a popular hunting ground for American Kestrels - the most colorful member of the falcon family. As we went along the perimeter, on an aerial TV cable we saw one patiently watching for an entree. We managed to get some decent shots before his comfort level went off scale and he left.

(American Kestrel)

(American Kestrel)
These little falcons are about the size of a blue jay. Click on the label below to find out more about them.


The Mountain Bluebird is a first for me. I've only had peripheral glimpses of them before this outing. On the ridge of Palo Duro Canyon, in the evergreen bushes, were 5 or 6 of these gorgeous birds. The panhandle appears to be in the Winter range of these little fellas. They do not nest here. They eat ants, beetles, and an assortment of other insects. They swoop down from their perches to grab whatever dish presents itself.

(Mountain Bluebird)

The Brown Thrasher is a fairly timid little guy, and will dart in and out of the brush - much like the Spotted Towhee. Like most other thrashers, the Brown prefers running or hopping to flying.

The Brown Thrasher eats insects (loves beetles), worms, grains, nuts, berries, and fruit. Its numbers are said to be declining - possibly due to the fragmentation of large, wooded habitat that it needs.

(Brown Thrasher)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


When I restocked our feeders today, I disappeared and came back a little later with camera in hand. The usual sparrows were infesting the cage/cake feeder, and another feathery fellow I didn't expect.

Western Mockingbird
He stopped off at a nearby tree for a few minutes and let me take a few shots. Don't know, but he looks kind of young.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mississippi Kite

The time nears when the Mississippi Kites will be heading for South America. They depart in late August through late September. A few days ago, my wife and I saw a flock of 2 or 3 dozen Kites circling over a spot in town. We can only presume they are getting their flight plans in order in preparation for their migration. ;)

I don't see them as much hanging around trees in our neighborhood, but today I saw a couple soaring overhead. This one was hanging out in one of the usual trees. I have no idea if it is one of the family that occupied our tree or not. I don't think it's the little one, because I wouldn't expect him to have full adult plumage this soon - but I could be wrong.

(Mississippi Kite)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mississippi Kite

The young Mississippi Kite in our tree is out learning to hunt most of the time. He hasn't been hanging out in the tree very much lately. I don't know how many more times I'll be able to watch him. I created a montage of my images for a YouTube video for you to enjoy.

(Watching Speckles grow.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mississippi Kite

Yes - another Kite post. Sorry, but I love these raptors.

The little one fills the nest all by himself now. Nearly a full crop of feathers. I'm still anxiously awaiting seeing him soaring the skies. When he does, I'll feel like a proud papa.

(Mississippi Kite Nestling.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mississippi Kite

We recently got the dead wood cut out of the tree in our back yard. That was the tree Momma always kept watch from. She had to change to a neighbor's tree, where I think she gives me the "stink eye" from.

I'm waiting to see this little guy trying out his wings. Hopefully, I can catch his first attempts.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mississippi Kite

Since I first saw their chick's fuzzy head over the edge of the nest the last week in June, this little guy has grown like a weed! In the last week, he's gained his juvenile colors, and is nearly ready to fly. He's no longer eating what his momma has "chewed up". Most of the time, momma drops a bug off, and the little one chows down on it. This is repeated many times throughout the day. In this video, momma "brings home the bacon" (a nice big, juicy bug) and shares it with her little stinker. (It views well in Full Screen at 720p.)

After she leaves to get another course, he cleans the pieces up that were left behind in the nest. He's going to need all his strength pretty soon, when he first leaves the nest.

(Mississippi Kite Feeding Nestling)
You can see all of the images I've posted of his progress in my PBase Gallery, titled "Watching A Chick Grow".

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mississippi Kite

Today, I watched Momma Kite doing some hunting. I don't know if she was hunting for her chick, or for herself. In this first image, she has zeroed in on a bug - also seen in this image. Her talons are at the ready, and she is diving after it. There is little hope for the bug at this point.

(A Mississippi Kite dives after a bug.)
In this next image, you can see that she indeed has captured the bug. Look closely in the clutches of her right foot.

(This Mississippi Kite has captured herself a snack.)
If this one is for herself, she will most likely eat it on the fly. Mississippi Kites seldom land to eat. They will quite often stay airborne, eat, and hunt some more. No need to waste energy landing and returning to the air. It is a simple matter for this 12-15" raptor to stay aloft, soaring lazily on its 3' wingspan.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mississippi Kite

I don't blame mommy and daddy Kites for trying to protect their little one. He is a cute little thing.

(Mississippi Kite hatchling)
His parents have been doing an excellent job caring for him. Here, the female keeps a close eye on me as she heads out to get the second course of her little one's dinner. Those are some formidable looking talons!

(Female Mississippi Kite)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mississippi Kite

Yesterday I was talking with our neighbor - who lives in the house on the other side of the Kite nest. Momma Kite was tending to her hatchling(s), and her mate was in a tree in front of our house. As I was talking to the neighbor, Mr. Kite swooped down and buzzed us, smacking me on the head with his wing as he flew by. Our neighbor's eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open. First time he had ever seen that happen. I had previously given him a "heads up" about the nest and possibility of getting buzzed, after which he got buzzed himself.

This was a first for me, a Kite making contact during a fly-by. I had heard stories of other people getting "attacked", but I have never been until yesterday - and I've been buzzed a lot over the years. (No, I don't really consider it an "attack", per se'.)

I'm thinking that whether or not one gets contacted during a buzzing depends on the individual Kite - how intent he/she might be on protecting the nest and chicks, and of course, how much of a threat they think a "target" might be.

Hopefully, I won't get any talons in my scalp during these incidents. If I do, I will understand completely and not hold it against them.

After rescuing a young Kite when we found it orphaned, dehydrated and hungry, I'm not the least bit put off when a Kite pair cares for (and protects) its family.

This is the actual gentleman that tagged me:

From the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management:

"Some Mississippi kites create problems by diving at and frightening people who venture near their nests (Fig. 2). The diving behavior is initiated to protect the nest and young, but occurs at less than 20% of the nests. Diving increases as incubation progresses and is most prevalent after hatching. Often both parents dive and emit shrill cries when the nest is threatened. These alarm calls often attract other kites, which also harass the intruder. Although kites may swoop within inches of an individual, only 3% of 903 dives recorded at one golf course resulted in the birds actually hitting humans. These attacks, however, can be serious if elderly individuals or children riding bicycles are frightened and fall. After the young leave their nests, the diving behavior stops."

[Addendum - 11 July 2017:
After all these years, I've come to wonder if the diving contacts aren't made for a simple reason. These birds are predators. When you run or try to avoid a predator, its natural tendency is to get more aggressive and try to catch whatever is trying to avoid it. The times I've been hit on the head, it's never met with talons or injury. I have never made "escape" movements. I wonder if I had, if the Kite would have tried to "catch" me with its talons. Food for thought. This may be the reason that some people have been injured by them when they dive.]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mississippi Kites

In the last day or two, we've gained two Mississippi Kite chicks. I suspected as much when there was more "buzzing" activity from the adults in recent days. They've buzzed my wife and I, and they've buzzed the neighbors. Their nest is right between our houses.

Interestingly, when the nest was built, it wasn't done by Kites. Euro-Collared Doves built it. I don't know what happened, but one day I saw a Kite in it - and then it began. She laid her eggs and never left the nest from what I saw. I expect she might have briefly now and then, but I never saw her leave. Daddy brought her food regularly.

(Ms. Kite in her nest, incubating her eggs.)

Today is the first day I saw any fuzzy little heads poking up. I also saw Mommy bring them something to eat (obviously feeding two), and while I didn't see the second chick I did see its fuzz through the nest materials. You can see it in this pic. Look to the left of the obvious one, and a little bit down.

(Two Mississippi Kite Chicks)
I will try to watch this family closely, because I know they will grow very fast!

Update, 6/26/2013: 
I didn't know they did, but Ms. Kite appears to be panting in this video I shot this afternoon. We're in the middle of some 100+ degree days, and I'm hoping they can weather them ok. (We have a bird bath close by, that I hope she will make use of.) The chicks only hatched a few days ago. Towards the end of this video clip, you can see one of them moving below her wing on the right side.

I may have been mistaken. There may only be one chick. I thought by the way Momma was acting that there was a second one. However, I've only seen one head at a time. Time will tell.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mississippi Kite

The kites have returned to the panhandle. Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, all of a sudden they were everywhere in the skies. In this image, a female Mississippi Kite is being harassed by a blue jay. House finches, sparrows, starlings, and others will nag and taunt the kites in attempts to run them off. Breeding time brings much defensiveness and suspicion between the species of birds.

Blue Jay taunts a Mississippi Kite.
Here is an article from the Texas Parks and Wildlife that may be of interest.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Euro-Collared Doves

Spring has sprung, and love is in the air!

Two Euro-Collared (or Eurasian Collared) Doves engage in nest building. The one on the left looks on as the other does the actual construction. I couldn't say if they will switch jobs at all during its construction.

Euro-Collared Doves constructing their nest.

[Addendum: This nest was subsequently taken over and used by Mississippi Kites, above.]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Northern Harrier

This Northern Harrier was hunting a field next to where we were waiting to see the PanSTARRS comet this evening. I actually saw him drop down to ambush something, but apparently missed. It happened right behind some scrub brush, so I didn't get it on "film". This shot was taken right after his failed attempt.

Northern Harrier (More images and info HERE.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wild Turkey

This Wild Turkey "Jake" (immature male) was nice enough to pose for me - long enough to get a good profile photo of him. You can see his "snood" as a stub poking up from his forehead. It will eventually grow to hang over his beak and turn bright red. Not the prettiest face you've ever seen - even as an adult.


Spotted Towhee

These robin-sized birds are fun to watch as they dart in and out of the underbrush, grabbing morsels to take back with them. They eat insects, fruits, seeds, acorns, and sometimes small snakes and lizards. I caught the one pictured here as it hopped up on his watering hole to get a drink.

(More images and information HERE.)

Brown Thrasher

This is another first photographed for me - the Brown Thrasher. Like the Spotted Towhee, the Brown Thrasher stays in dense underbrush. It will dart out to grab a bite to eat, then return to the brush as quickly as it appeared. Like most other thrashers, the Brown prefers running or hopping to flying.

The Brown Thrasher eats insects (loves beetles), worms, grains, nuts, berries, and fruit. Its numbers are said to be declining - possibly due to the fragmentation of large, wooded habitat that it needs.


Pine Siskin

This is another first for me to photograph. It caught my attention by way of its yellow wing stripe.

The Pine Siskin is an unpredictably nomadic little rascal. They tend to prefer pines, spruces, and other conifers. They will make a mass exodus from an area if the food supply isn't to their liking. The Pine Siskin eats conifer seeds and insects, and can be seen feeding along roadsides, lawns, and weed fields. He can be a vicious fighter at the dinner table.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

American Robin

The American Robin has retuned to the Texas panhandle in force. These icons are very numerous in our neighborhood already this year, and they're singing their hearts out. A sign of Spring right around the corner? Maybe so!

 (More Robin images and info HERE.)