March 5, 2021
| Black-billed Magpie by Mark Fuller (left) and Sharp-shinned Hawk by Mary Foust (right) |
For the fifth season in a row, Cornell Lab and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with BirdSpotter prizes. After entering bird counts (data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip by clicking the “Enter to Win” button on the Count Summary page. Our fourth and final Data Entry contest prompt was:
Antics abound at our feeder sites, whether it is acrobatic squirrels or clumsy birds. Share a laugh-out-loud moment!
Congratulations to our randomly selected winner, Joyce DeHaan! Joyce regaled us with a story about a crafty corvid and a ruffled raptor:
We have a Sharp-shinned Hawk that is a regular visitor to our yard. Normally he swoops in and there is a furious rush of panic around the feeder as everyone takes cover in surrounding bushes. But, this time the Sharp-Shinned perched in a tree overlooking the pond and had a rest. Or at least he meant to. A Black-billed Magpie took exception to the visit and was determined to harass the hawk into leaving. First it screamed at him from a few yards away. When that raised no response, the magpie inched increasingly closer, hopping and leaping in the nearby branches. The hawk shrugged a few times but remained relatively unimpressed. Finally, the magpie maneuvered onto a lower branch, leaped up, and grabbed one of the hawk’s tail feathers. The hawk rose up on its branch, fluffed all over, and made to strike at the magpie. It was enough for the magpie to give up on pestering the hawk and it flew away. Last I checked, the hawk was dozing peacefully. And the poor small birds were still too frightened to return to the feeder. All was still.
Of these two species, Black-billed Magpies are slightly larger – they are about 17-23 in (45-60 cm) in length compared to 9-13 in (24-34 cm) for Sharp-shinned Hawks. Black-billed Magpies spend their time in meadows, grasslands, and sagebrush plains of the West. Like many corvids, they have a wide-ranging diet, and will come to feeders with sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and much more! Sharp-shinned Hawks can be found all over the continent, but “birdfeeder” means something a little different to them. These birds may prey upon smaller feeder visitors – it should fly on soon enough, but if you have a hawk that’s wearing out its welcome, simply take your feeders down for a few days. The hawk will get hungry and move on.
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories this season! We received over 1900 stories (700 more than last year!), and we wish we could have shared them all. Stay tuned for the announcement of our Grand Prize winners for the BirdSpotter photo contest later today. You can vote for your favorite starting next Monday, March 8, until 11:59pm ET on Thursday, March 18. We will post winners on Friday, March 19, 2021.
Interested in becoming a FeederWatcher? Join the fun now to be ready when the 2021-2022 season begins in November!