Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Suspended Animation

I was astounded when I read Toni's (A Spattering) post about her experience with the hanging white-breasted nuthatch in her yard and the fact that she had scared off a Cooper's hawk, because I had an almost identical experience here on the same day!! I looked out my window in the back and saw a white-breasted nuthatch just hanging from the catch tray on my sunflower seed feeder (In my haste and excitement when commenting on Toni's blog I wrote "suet" feeder). I have seen nuthatches perform some weird maneuvers but when he stayed there for quite some time I wondered what was up. I called my husband into the kitchen to check it out and he noticed a downy woodpecker on the other side of the deck just "frozen" clinging to a post. I've seen this behavior before (I read it's part of the "Fight-or-flight response" to danger) and I told him that there must be a hawk around. I went to the door but didn't see the hawk. My grandson, never one to be left out of anything, came to the sliding glass door and started pounding on it. That didn't cause the nuthatch or downy to move but a few minutes later a Cooper's hawk swooped over the deck and into the pines. The nuthatch and WP just stayed in their places and I grabbed my camera. I went out onto the deck and took these shots of the nuttie and downy. I was only limited by the close focus distance on my long lens and if I had had my macro on I could have gotten very close but these birds were already traumatized enough. The last two shots are of a Cooper's hawk I found dead in my yard last winter. There is no gore, but it may not appeal to some. I just wanted to provide a pictoral reference.





Beautiful piercing eyes.

Sharper-than-nails talons wrapped around my thumb! It's no wonder the little ones freeze in terror.

15 comments:

Shellmo said...

Amazing captures!! I had a red belly freeze before in my yard while a coopers hawk was consuming a morning dove.

Kallen305 said...

Awesome photos!!!! My heart was so sad looking at the downy. I swear I could see fear in his beautiful eyes.

OMG. I now don't know what I would do if there were a hawk in my yard. Seriously, if I saw all my birds frozen in terror like that, I don't think I could bear it.

::Knocking on wood that no hawks will pay me a visit this winter (allthough I would love to see one)

Leedra said...

We are all torn between wanting to see one, and not wanting to see what it does.

Toni said...

Michele I am still in awe of what happened. And even more amazing is that it happened in both our yards on the same day with the same species of bird. Nature sure is fascinating and keeps me entertained. I only wish I had this interest when I was younger.

I'm so glad you were able to get photos of the nuthatch hanging upside down. Everyone sees them clinging to a tree looking down but our little guys were hanging.

Again I am still in awe and so glad I spotted the action or in-action you might say.

Linda in Erie said...

Well, now I'm wondering if the pigeon that hit my door's window was actually flying away from the coopers hawk that has been hanging around our yard the same time you and Toni have seen them. Gee, I even think we all saw them on the same day. I commented on Toni's nuthatch story about the pigeon. He looked dead in the snow outside the door and I looked at him quite a while. I opened the door to move him off the deck and he flew off. This was near the time I got the photos of the coopers hawk that I posted on my site. Maybe he was stunned (he had to be somewhat stunned) but also he could have gone into that "frozen" state to protect himself from the hawk. He didn't twitch or move or breath. I was sure he was dead.

Bird Girl said...

That is so odd that you and Toni would have the same experience on the very same day! Those birds are smart - I suppose the Coopers thinks they are not real if they don't move - ha! But yes, I have seen that very same behavior myself at the feeder - wonderful close ups of the nuthatch and downy AND the hawk from last year! I'm glad your grandson got to see everything unfold!

NCmountainwoman said...

Great photographs. You can almost feel the terror in the nuthatch and downy. We've seen the very same behavior in our yard when the Sharpie shows up.

troutbirder said...

wow! Great post with pics. Ive heard this story before but have never seen birds act like this. Maybe this winter

HANNIBAL said...

What a cool behavior story! I never knew...

The coopers closeups were cool , although it being dead is not cool...

Nice closeups!

Sioux said...

We have cooper's hawk in our birdfeeders. The little birds just explore into the air. We have both white breasted and red breasted nuthatches...mostly red.

I love your photos. They are super!

Kathleen said...

I too saw the fear in the poor downy. I do chase the hawks from my yard when they look for easy pickens from the feeders. They are beautiful birds, but they are not invited to dinner.

MicheleRF said...

Thank you all for your wonderful & kind comments. I'm finally back up and running now that our new floor is in in the downstairs. I think next I'll have to post "the revenge of the chickadees!"

T and S said...

You have an amazing blog with some stunning images of birds. It was fun browsing through your archives...Thomas

Mary said...

Wow, Michele. The nuthatches are beautiful! I've never held a hawk's talon...can you imagine the power with a thrust? Small birds just explode from the power.

"...he noticed a downy woodpecker on the other side of the deck just "frozen" clinging to a post. I've seen this behavior before (I read it's part of the "Fight-or-flight response" to danger) and I told him that there must be a hawk around."

I saw a male red-bellied do the same thing last spring! I was amazed. He clinged to a seed feeder, upside down - a feeder he never really visited. After 5 minutes I guess he felt safe enough to make a getaway.

Mary

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