Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS: SPARROW DUNKING TODAY, COW TIPPING TOMORROW!


After the previously reported misadventures with a carrot-hoarding squirrel, I’ve had another Close Encounter of the "Far Side" Kind (remember those hilarious cartoons?) at my birdfeeder. As you can see, the feeder is a triple-decker square one, with a total of 12 seed ports. And because it’s hung in the lilac bush, it’s nestled in with lots of slim branches. It makes it very handy for some of the larger birds that would have difficulty (but they still try, much to my amusement) sitting on one of the small pegs provided. The red-wings, starlings and over-sized grackles can all perch on a convenient twig, and peck merrily away at the seed. It’s also a great place for them to harass any of the smaller sparrows and finches that can perch on the pegs, chase them off, and then continue feasting.

Yesterday, I was keeping an eye out for a salt-and-pepper leucistic grackle I’d seen earlier, when I saw a male Red-winged blackbird hop up a to a twig right behind a female house sparrow who was sitting having lunch at one of the perches. The blackbird leaned forward, and what happened next almost defies description. Was it a freak accident or did the blackbird intend to do it? Or did he simply not know his own strength? Who can say, but he leaned forward to give the sparrow a nip on the tail, and when he sat back again, the sparrow came with him, tail still in his beak! The sparrow immediately fell forward, and then the blackbird lowered and raised his head three times, like he was dunking the sparrow in a cup of tea! The sparrow, to her credit, remained calm, with wings folded like a tiny torpedo, until the blackbird released her. If she’d have flapped and struggled, she might have lost her tail. Then again, maybe she was just too stunned to react. I had the impression that neither bird had quite figured on this happening.

I wish I could have gotten a shot of the sparrow hanging upside down from the Red-wing’s beak, but even if I’d had my camera right at hand, it was over so fast. Doesn’t take too long to dunk a sparrow, don’tcha know!

Photo: Grackle checking out a Red-winged Blackbird at the niger feeder (click for details).

19 comments:

bobbie said...

Sparrow-dunking! Sounds pretty comical! I don't know about the cow-tipping though. Are we still talking about birds? Could be a cowbird I guess. Don't know that I ever saw a cowbird. Is it just a blackbird?

Poetikat said...

That's the perfect way to describe it - dunking in tea. I'm glad the sparrow wasn't hurt. I didn't know redwing blackbirds were aggressive in that manner.
And yes, bobbie, there are "cowbirds". They are quite common in my area and they're a hoot to watch - especially when they're puffing themselves up and doing little dances to entice the females.

Kat

Poetikat said...

Just had to tell you, this word verification is "fishog".

Kat

Aleta said...

"sparrow hanging upside down from the Red-wing’s beak"

If you had been able to catch that shot, you could have sold the picture!

Loved this post!

Sylvia K said...

I love it!! Poor sparrow, but guess she's pretty smart! I like the term sparrow-dunking, but I am glad she wasn't hurt, too.

Deborah Godin said...

@ Bobbie, et al - cow tipping is kind of an urban legend but I'm sure some idiots somewhere have actually tried it on real cows. I hope they got caught and arrested. Here's a link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow-tipping

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Wow Deb... What a sight to see. Maybe the blackbird didn't want the sparrow to enjoy 'his' food..... Yipes---Poor Sparrow. Hope he is okay. Those blackbirds are BIG birds.

Sorry you didn't get a photo of that sight.. Can't wait to see the 'cow tipping'... HA

Hugs,
Betsy

Shellmo said...

Poor little sparrow - the grackles can be bullies! (But then I've seen a crowd of sparrows bully my downy woodpecker off the suet cakes before too.) What goes around comes around I guess... lol!

Sue said...

amazing. the things we see when we take the time to look.

Rose said...

Oh, gosh, this is funny. (I thought for a minute you were going to say he fell out of the tree like my rooster I told about the other day.)

I bet the blackbird was thinking 'what do I do with this thing now?'

Annie said...

It's late afternoon and I'm soooo appreciating the plucky little sparrow. I could use some of her energy and ingenuity about now.

Lin said...

how funny, does sound like a far side cartoon all right. your description was good at capturing the event.

Kallen305 said...

LOL regarding the sparrow dunking! I bet the blackbird was just as shocked as the sparrow once it realized what had happened.

dennis said...

Dennis likes bird watching.

Cloudia said...

Spring!
Sublime.
Aloha-

Ruth said...

All the birds are quite scrappy at this time of year. I have seen several hawks hotly pursued by crows and blackbirds too. The little sparrow kept its cool.

Raven said...

Poor little sparrow! Glad the story ended with no bloodshed. I enjoyed reading down the page and catching up. My back yard is full of holes too, which I'm sure are the work of some industrious squirrel trying to remember where he/she buried all that stuff last fall. I haven't been able to catch anybody in the act yet, though.

Indrani said...

I too am stunned like the sparrow... rare sight!

Quiet Paths said...

That could go into a nature believe it or not video; if only you'd had one near! What a weird thing.