Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Posts about Bird interactions

Young owls

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 28, 2013 - 11:12 AM

 The Great Horned Owl chicks I've been watching are beginning to look like owls. This photo was taken Sunday morning. 

There were crows and jays in the area, birds that would mob adult owls. The young birds are ignored. Perhaps they are  recognized as non-threatening in this plumage. 

 

Fighting for nesting rights

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 25, 2013 - 6:34 PM

 

Before the ice was off the small pond in our backyard a pair of Canada Geese showed interest in nesting here. Geese have nested on the pond in previous years. As soon as I had open water I did some repair work to the floating nest platform. The pair appeared to be settling in. Yesterday (Wednesday) a second pair of geese arrived. The fight between goose couples began at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The main event lasted an hour, not that they stopped then. I heard and watched them at 11 p.m., and at 1:15 and 3 in the morning. It’s now 10:45 in the morning, and the squabbling continues into its 20th hour. We’re down to verbal exchanges, a big difference from the loud, serious, physical encounters earlier. We had chasing, biting, attempts at dunking, and much flapping of those large wings. The pairs worked together. They fought mostly on the water, but occasionally in our yard. They stopped fighting now and again for intense preening. All feathers in place once again, it was back to the battle. The resident pair has spent some time on the nest platform; I assume they are and will be the winners, although the challengers remain at the edge of the pond. It was a great photo op. (Addendum: at 6 p.m. Thursday both pair remain at the pond, awake after naps on the sun, back on the honk.)

 

 

Bright spot on snowy day

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 12, 2013 - 9:51 AM

 Disregarding a heavy coating of slush on our backyard pond yesterday, 11 Wood Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers spent most of the afternoon there. I was sitting just inside our back storm door, taking photos through the glass of the birds coming to our feeders when the ducks arrived. Sometimes what you want most actually is given. I wanted duck and merganser drakes in the same photo frame. They're our most beautiful waterfowl in my book. And so, they gave me this. The birds mostly ignored each other, but when a Wood Duck got into the merganser's personal space, brief threats were given. 

Ducks and mergansers together

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 12, 2013 - 8:56 AM

 Disregarding a heavy coating of slush on our backyard pond yesterday, 11 Wood Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers spent most of the afternoon there. I was sitting just inside our back storm door, taking photos through the glass of the birds coming to our feeders when the ducks arrived. Sometimes what you want most actually is given. I wanted duck and merganser drakes in the same photo frame. They're our most beautiful waterfowl in my book. And so, they gave me this. The birds mostly ignored each other, but when a Wood Duck got into the merganser's personal space, brief threats were given. 

Crows at play

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 9, 2012 - 9:56 AM

 A new book available at the Hennepin County library is entitled "Gifts of the Crow." Author Dr. John Marzluff and artist Tony Angell present a fascinating study of crow intelligence, how and why. Marzluzz is professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. Angell's ink drawings of crows have long been an excellent reason to pick up anything with his name on it. Play is one of the crow activities discussed by Marzluff. Play is a sign of intelligence, and can be important in its development, according to the author. 

On our Wyoming trip we had a picnic lunch in a park in Laramie, Wyoming. Also enjoying lunch in the park were six crows. I think it was a family group. Four of the birds made obvious begging overtures to the other two birds, even though they were full-size and looked old enough to fare for themselves. At one point three of the young birds began what I can only describe as play. Two of the birds would stand side by side as the third squeezed his way between them. They wrestled, a brief gentle combat before the participants would drop to the ground, prone, one on its stomach, the other on its back. They'd jump at each other like puppies sometimes do. It was fascinating to watch this two or three-minute break from begging.

I've watched ravens act in a way I can only describe as having fun: they were barrel-rolling in the air, for brief intervals appearing as though flying upsidedown. There was a pair of them flying past us that day. Perhaps the trick flyer was showing off.

Here are a couple of photos of the crows at play.

The book, by the way, is accessible science sprinkled with anticdotes illustrating the points made about brain development. You'll know a lot about crows -- and brains in general -- when you finish it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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