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).