Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wild Kingdom II: The Bird Volume

I was puttering around the kitchen last week when my brother in law, Tim, popped his head into the window to tell me goodbye; he'd been out back helping Clint, and was taking off. I walked over to the window to yak a few minutes, and spotted something fanned out on the ground behind him. What IS that? Awww, a dead bird. Don't step on it!


Still alive! Apparently a little stunned, it must have just flown into the same window that we'd been chatting through. Man, that has to be rude, flying along with abandon, and then SMACK. Poor little lamb, we got down for a closer look, and this one sat there, panting. Do birds pant? It seemed like it.

While we sat wondering just how injured she was, she startled us both by taking flight and landing on a low branch a few feet away.

Her little breathing evened out as she calmed down, so after another photo, we let her be, to get her little bird brain straight.

I wasn't sure what type of bird she was, so turned to the "Birds of Illinois" book that I got Clint for Christmas a few years ago. Tim suggested it was a woodpecker of sorts, so I started there first. Sure enough:

Downy Woodpecker. Male has a red patch on the back of his head, female does not. The book notes that this one has a number of features that help cushion the shock of hammering on wood:
"...a strong bill, strong neck muscles, a flexible, reinforced skull and a brain that is tightly packed in a protective cranium."

Hm. These are features that also help cushion the shock of flying into an invisible shield (aka kitchen window). She's a little helmet head!

This little Robin knows better than to try flying through glass, so he just enjoys the porch swing and taunts the cat.

I hope to God THIS guy never decides to go up against any of our windows, because I'm afraid he'd win. I was shocked to see him sitting just under our table in the back yard last week. The pic is a little fuzzy because I shot through the window screen, afraid I'd chase him off if I stepped outside.

At least I knew enough to turn to the "owl" section of the bird book. He's a Great Horned Owl, isn't he gorgeous? Usually nocturnal, I suspect he was probably stopping in for a late afternoon snack. Our yard is full of these:

Owl chow. Otherwise known as "voles." They make windy little paths through our entire yard, and that owl is very welcome to belly up to our "All You Can Eat Vole Buffet" any time he wants.


  1. There used to be a great horned owl living in a hollow of a tree across the street from me. I used to have staring contests with him, but he always won. I called him Big Brother because his vantage point allowed a view of several blocks and he was seemingly relentless in noticing every little detail of our lives.

  2. Hmmm, I wonder if that's what we found dead in our empty spa. I thought it was a baby mole, but maybe it was a vole.

    Nice bird pics! I'm glad that one was okay.

  3. I adore downy woodpeckers. I haven't seen one in ages. Glad that one made it!

  4. Birds are such curious animals, I've sat and watched them on campus and it's so interesting and fun to see them do what they do.

  5. You need to read the story about my brother's interaction with an owl. It is an old post, but always makes me laugh so hard I almost pee my pants just thinking about it. Part of the humor is in seeing him tell the story.


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