Friday, April 17, 2015

Exciting Birding Morning

Red-shouldered Hawk Intimidated by Turkey Vultures

Red-shouldered Hawk
For about 2 hours on April 13 birding was fantastic at our home in Fredericton.  A hawk appeared on the snow with a dead squirrel.  It was an unusual hawk, rare even in this area.  It was a Red-shouldered Hawk.  It soon dragged the prey over the brow of the hill nearly out of sight and began to feed.  Within about 20 minutes the action increased.  Four Turkey Vultures appeared out of nowhere and were flitting around the yard like giant butterflies.  They landed in trees near where the hawk was feeding.  Some landed on the ground and stood near the hawk.  At no time did we see any physical or vocal interaction between the hawk and the vultures.  

Turkey Vulture

Four Turkey Vultures

We realized what the vultures were doing was intimidating the hawk.  We could see the hawk get gradually more and more agitated.  It would drag the prey a few feet away and the vultures would move closer.  They made no attempt to grab it.  After about 15 minutes, the hawk became unnerved by the stares of the the vultures and gave up.  It left the prey and flew up into the trees overhead.  The vultures then moved in to feast on the prey, squabbling among themselves.  The hawk began to utter its alarm call repeatedly.  This was a new sound for me.  It would move to another overhead tree, continuing to call.  Finally it took to flight and flew out over the river only to soon return.  The vultures were still feeding and it continued to vocalize.  After another 5 minutes, the hawk appeared to give up and flew away, spirally upward into the sky and then flew up river.  

The vultures continued to feed and interact with one another.  When they were not feeding they were sunning themselves in the trees or on the ground.  The south-facing slope they were on was warm and the area was well protected with trees.  At times they spread their wings to take full advantage of the heat.  They remained in the area for about an hour.

Turkey Vulture Sunning Itself

Turkey Vulture Sunning Itself

In the early evening the hawk returned and immediately found the remains of the carcass.  It did not stay long, flying out over the island in the river.

On April 6 we also had a Red-shouldered Hawk visit our area.  Fortunately I was able to get a photo.  Comparing it with the bird of April 13, it does not appear to be the same individual.  This is unusual.  Birds of New Brunswick: An Annotated List shows the Red-shouldered Hawk as a rare summer resident, casual in winter.  It is unusual to have this species visit and most unusual to have 2 different individuals in a short period.  

Red-shouldered Hawk Seen on April 6

The vultures are early migrants and have not returned.


 

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