A quick update

There are quite a few photos that I’m trying to get around to posting, some of which I might simply throw out here with little explanation – I know, shocking, right? Right now, however, I’m going to post a brief update on the red-shouldered family.

Previously I mentioned that I had never seen the hawks bringing in what was reputed to be their preferred food, which is/are frogs. Apparently they read the blog, because I’ve seen them bring some in twice since; here’s a peek at one of those times.

red-shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus pair with frog bounty
The one with the red belly has just arrived with the frog, and is transferring it to the other to feed to the young, one of which is peeking up between them, that little shape directly under the one on the left. Initially, I had said that the one on the right was the female, but I’m not so sure about that now. The coloration isn’t any indication because it varies among the species for both genders, and while I’ve seen both feeding, the one with the brown belly seems to do it more often. Females are noticeably larger than the males, but it’s usually hard to tell even when they’re both on the nest together because of their positions; they’d have to be sitting side-by-side to get a good idea, and that hasn’t happened on my watch.

The other morning added some amusement to my vigil though. I was watching the red one feeding the young, which were responding with enthusiasm and more than a little competition; some snatching was going on, as well as a brief tug-of-war over a morsel that they’d both snagged at the same time. I can’t be sure, but I suspect the adults are subtly encouraging the young to be aggressive. I have seen them, more than once, tear off a morsel and sit with it in their beaks for a moment, not offering it to the young but not out of reach. After a moment, the parents will simply swallow it themselves, but the younguns might reach forward and grab it on their own before that occurs, and I’m not sure this isn’t intentional. I have watched some favoritism going on, the one closest to the adult getting the bulk of the food, but I’ve also watched the underprivileged one getting more aggressive and leaning in to grab what it can, and this may be nature’s way of encouraging such behavior.

While this feeding session was going on, the other parent arrived at the nest with, for reasons known only to itself, more nesting material, a pine twig with needles. The adult who was feeding seemed a little put-out, shifting to one side as the other crowded into the nest, then sidling up onto the limb to the right, before finally deciding to just vacate the nest for a bit. The new arrival settled in and began trying to pick a choice location for this obviously crucial bit of reinforcement material.

The young, however, weren’t done feeding, and as the parent lifted the twig again for proper placement, both of them simultaneously seized onto it. Whatever instinct or senses they might have to differentiate food from lumber apparently isn’t developed enough yet, because neither of them were letting it go, and the parent performed a little dance, lifting and stamping down one foot repeatedly in an attempt to pin down the twig and wrest it from their beaks. I have regretted not having video capability several times before, and this was another data point pushing me towards a camera body with that function. I watched this little drama with great delight and, somehow, no audible giggling.

red-shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus parent trying to take twig back from both offspring
There wasn’t a lot to see in the still photos that I obtained of the struggle, but if you look close, you can see the twig passing in front of both white-feathered young, with the adult still gripping it. It was eventually removed from their eager little beaks and placed lovingly within the nest, and I cannot vouch for whether the adult learned its lesson about crucial timing or not. I have mixed feelings about this all, too – I feel quite lucky to be able to watch the ongoing drama, but really want a better view.

More will be along shortly – I can already see the first adult feathers peeking out on the wings when the young stand up and stretch on the nest, so soon enough we’ll be seeing notable changes in coloration, size, and behavior. Keep checking back.

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