Daily Archives: April 30, 2018

Cuckoo!

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I have to use this terrible photo because I only got two pics of this weird bird that turns out to be a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

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When I saw it flying to this perch yesterday morning I thought it was a small hawk. When I downloaded the pics and saw the bill and tail, I went right to the experts on What’s This Bird. A couple of them IDed it in several seconds.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, long-tailed birds that manage to stay well hidden in deciduous woodlands. They usually sit stock still, even hunching their shoulders to conceal their crisp white underparts, as they hunt for large caterpillars. Bold white spots on the tail’s underside are often the most visible feature on a shaded perch. Fortunately, their drawn-out, knocking call is very distinctive.

Uh-oh, fish crow

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While I was paying attention to warblers, this local Fish Crow flew onto a nearby tree.

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It gave the characteristic nasal call that I think sounds like Uh oh.

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It flew down to the street next to me and pecked at something in the road.

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Then it flew onto a cabbage palm right in front of me. I was beginning to get the feeling the crow was putting on a performance for this observer.

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It stepped or flapped from one boot jack perch to another, probing with its beak.

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I hardly zoomed in at all, this bird was so close.

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Such glossy black feathers.

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What was the attraction in there?

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The crow pulled out tufts of straw-like material and dropped the tufts on the ground.

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I’ve read that Fish Crows “cache” food for later. Was this a cache? Or was it looking for new, not stored food?

Like most of its relatives, Fish Crows will eat almost anything, including carrion, trash, nestlings and eggs of other birds, berries, fruit, and grain, and any items they can steal from other birds. Their association with water leads them to eat crabs, marine invertebrates, and turtle eggs more than other crows.

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Fish Crows, like other corvids (crows and jays), are intelligent, curious, social animals. Breeding pairs form in the summer, but in winter they gather into flocks of hundreds to thousands. Young Fish Crows, like other crow species, often play with objects that they find—one was seen hanging upside down and swinging from a weeping willow branch. Fish Crows join together (and may join American Crows) to mob hawks and other predators including raccoons, owls, and humans, driving them away.

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The crows are paired off all around Sewall’s Point now, no longer in big winter flocks. I see them every day. Last week I went for a walk on trash day and saw that the crows had been cleverly scavenging the weaker cans and bags, making little messes here and there.