Who is this Dark Stranger? (A Red-tailed Hawk Dines in our Yard)

A dark brown shape, a jumble of wings and talons. Flying feathers, uprooted autumn leaves, a flurry of snow. When the ‘dust’ cleared, I realized it was a rather large hawk, and it was expertly dissecting a newly caught ‘something’ for lunch.

In all the photos you can see some of ‘the something’ on the bird’s beak. When I visited the location after the hawk had left, I could see that the kill was a bird.

Many thanks to my go-to person for bird identification, Murray. My photos made identification difficult (shooting through a window on a dreary dull day), but he was reasonably confident this it was a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk. (Dark morph means that the pigment has an alteration that makes the feathers darker than the common colors usually seen. There are light morphs too. A study on morphs suggests that color polymorphism is due to different morphs being better adapted to different light conditions.)

The Feather Files
Name: Red-tailed Hawk – dark-morph
Species: Buteo jamaicensis
Native to and Migration: Resident or short-distance migrant. Most birds from Alaska, Canada, and the northern Great Plains fly south for a few months in winter, remaining in North America.
Date Seen: October 21, 2020
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes: Red-tailed Hawks are large birds with very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. They can have a wingspan of 45-52 inches (114-133 cm). The female will be slightly larger in length and weight. Red-tailed Hawks have extremely variable plumage,

I used a Topaz Studio filter on this photo. While it accents the lighter colour feathers, it is not a good picture for bird identification purposes!

 

 

Eurasian Collared-Dove

The Feather Files
Name:  Eurasian Collared-Dove
Species:  Streptopelia decaocto
Native to and Migration:  In North America – most of the United States; SW Canada, Mexico; non-migratory.
Date Seen:  May 2017; March 2016
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta; north of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes:  These birds are now native to Europe and Asia, though they were originally from India. They were introduced into North America in 1974, when about 50 of them escaped captivity in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas – then moved to Florida.

These doves typically breed close to human habitation where food resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting. They can produce three or four broods a year, which helps to explain their successful colonization of such a large part of the world.

They are a valuable food source for owls, eagles, hawks and falcons.

The dove’s monotonous coo – coo – coo can be incredibly annoying because it is repeated over and over and over – for hours. If the bird (or birds) are sitting on the top of the fireplace chimney, the sound is amplified and even more annoying… A flock of doves on the roof of your house is a very messy affair.

Greater Roadrunner

The Feather Files
Name: Greater Roadrunner
Species: Geococcyx californianus
Native to and Migration: Year round resident of the desert and semi-open, scrubby habitat of South West United States and Mexico
Date Seen: March 2018; April 2015
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: These raven sized birds eat mostly animals – almost anything they can catch: small mammals, reptiles, frogs, toads, insects, centipedes, scorpions, and birds. Rattlesnakes are also on the menu. They are fast and agile on the ground, but aren’t strong fliers. When threatened or displaying to a rival, they erect their crest.

The roadrunner in the first two photos was in our yard. The last photo was a bird in the neighbourhood. Sadly, they did not find and remove the rattlesnake that liked to hang out on our patio.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

The Feather Files
Name: Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
Species: Aphelocoma woodhouseii
Native to and Migration: Year round resident of the dry lowlands from Nevada, United States into Mexico
Date Seen: April 2016
Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Notes:  Unlike some other species of Jay, this one does not have a crested head.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

The Feather Files
Name: Red-breasted Nuthatch
Species: Sitta canadensis
Native to and Migration: Found throughout much of Canada and the United States. Can be resident or a short-distance migrant.
Date Seen: September 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes: These birds wander up, down and sideways along trunks and branches of trees. They eat mainly insects, but in fall and winter they will eat conifer seeds. We call them and other small birds like them, hoover birds. Flocks of them hop across the patio and lawn picking up the spruce seeds that our forest sheds all over our property.

Topaz Studio Filter that emphasizes the feathers
Another Topaz Studio Filter

Western Meadowlark

The Feather Files
Name: Western Meadowlark
Species: Sturnella neglecta
Native to and Migration: Birds can be found in South Central and Western Canada; central and Western United States; North and Central Mexico. Resident to medium distance migrants.
Date Seen: May 2018
Location: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah
Notes: Open grassland birds, their song is familiar to many of us here on the prairies, but we seldom if ever see them!

American Avocet

The Feather Files
Name: American Avocet
Species: Recurvirostra americana
Native to and Migration: South Central Canada; Central and Western United States; Mexico. Migrate from northern and central areas to south or coastal areas.
Date Seen: May 2018
Location: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah
Notes: A long-legged wader walks through shallow waters using its slender, upturned bill to catch aquatic invertebrates. Females may lay eggs in nests of other females, or even other birds. Several other species of birds do the same thing to the avocets.

Mountain Bluebird – Attracting Bluebirds (Video)

Male Mountain Bluebird, Arches National Park
Female Mountain Bluebird, Alberta
Male Mountain Bluebird, Alberta
Male Mountain Bluebird, Alberta

The Feather Files
Name: Mountain Bluebird
Species: Sialia currucoides
Native to and Migration: Mountain Bluebirds breed in western North America as far north as Alaska. They winter as far south as central Mexico
Date Seen:  May 2016;  May 2017
Location: Arches National Park, Utah, USA;  North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes:  Mountain Bluebirds will use man made birdhouses if the location is to their liking.

Phainopepla

Phainopepla female
Phainopepla male

The Feather Files
Name: Phainopepla
Species: Phainopepla nitens
Native to and Migration: Deserts and arid woodlands of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Breeds twice each year in two different habitats. Some spend winters in the southern part of its breeding range.
Date Seen: March 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: Individual birds will eat at least 1,100 mistletoe berries per day when they are available.

They are versatile songsters that can imitate up to 12 other species of birds. Though I see them frequently, they are harder to photograph than other birds because they spook very easily.

Arizona Bald Eagle

The Feather Files
Name: Bald Eagle
Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant throughout Canada and the United States. Northern adults begin fall migration when lakes and rivers freeze – migrating coastward or to open water. They return to breeding grounds when weather and food permit, usually January–March.
Date Seen: April 28, 2019
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: One of the largest birds in North America, wingspan slightly greater than Great Blue Heron. Arizona has 87 Bald Eagle breeding areas.

I live near a small, stocked lake that is a short flight from one of Arizona’s Bald Eagle breeding areas. Sometimes I see the Bald Eagles fishing in the lake, or sitting near the top of a tall tree that grows on an island in the middle of the lake.