|Our Feathered Friends- Oct. 24|
|Friday, November 2, 2012|
By Ray Pope
Coming back home from Al's Foodtown, I drove down Cole Avenue and was well surprised to hear a House Wren singing its little heart out. Usually this late into the fall, they should be much farther south where the weather in a little warmer.
I have also made many trips to South Hartmann Drive, looking for Thelma Sorrell's mysterious Hawk. There was one that flew over my van the other day, but it still hasn't allowed me to identify it by sight. I will tell you that its flight pattern would make me think that it was a Northern Harrier, or in the old days, known as a Marsh Hawk. Different birds have different patterns of flight, such as a Woodpecker's up-and-down habit of flying. The White-breasted Nuthatch will fly to the top of a tree and work itself downward in a spiral. Many other birds can be identified by these special movements.
The Wood Duck, (Aix sponsa) is the most beautiful species of Duck to be found in these parts, see picture. It is a medium-sized perching Duck that is 19 to 21 inches in length with a wingspan of 26 to 29 inches. The adult male has multicolored iridescent plumage and has red eyes. Females are less colorful with a white ring and a whitish throat. The male's call is a rising whistle sounding like "jeeeeeee."
Wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes, creeks and ponds make up the perfect breeding habitat in the eastern United States, to the left coast on down into Mexico. They will nest in cavities in trees especially when it is close to water. Wood Ducks have sharp claws which enable them to perch in trees. The female will line her nest with feathers where she will lay from 7 to 15 white eggs that she will incubate for 30 days. After hatching, the nestlings will leap to the ground, as their mother calls to them. If they are in a pond, there is a chance that they could become a meal of a Snapping Turtle, or in a lake they could help feed a large predatory fish, such as bass.
These birds are "omnivores," feeding by dabbling or while walking on land. Their food sources consist of acorns, seeds and berries, but will also consume insects. Birds that live in this area usually spend their life close to their home, but the northern Wood Ducks will migrate to the south for the winter.
Populations of Wood Ducks hit a serious decline in the late 19th century because of habitat loss and ladies’ hat makers in Europe who desired the beautiful feathers. These beautiful birds had declined in large numbers until the enactment of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which helped with their population recovery. Also helping in their recovery was the development of artificial nesting boxes in the 1930s.
Thelma, I am not giving up on finding your Hawk, and maybe soon, I will get a good look at it.