Territorial Dispute
Category: Birding at the Chico
Birds have winter territories too.  Sometimes carefull observation will reveal a territorial battle between two birds of the same species.  When the birds are raptors, their talons do the talking.  As I stood silently watching a Northern Harrier work the east side of the Upper Twin Pond cattail marsh, the bird's route would pass right over my head.  When the harrier flew withing range,  I started capturing six images a second.  The bird was so close it wouldn't fit in the camera's field of view.  All of a sudden another Northern Harrier appeared on my view screen and both birds rolled to present their talons towards the territorial intruder.  The location where  I was standing probably represented the boundary of two winter Norther Harrier territories.  After less than a second, one bird flew to the north from where it came and the other bird flew to the south.
Posted by Bill M. on 01/28/2012

Category: Birding at the Chico
Merilin is a small falcon only slightly larger than its more familiar relative, American Kestrel.  It was once called Pigeon Hawk for its preying on pigeons in parts of its range.  The second part of its scientific name, Falco columabarius, is also a reference to pigeons. It is a circumboreal species and in North America it is confined to boreal forests during the  summer.  An exception is the prairie Merlin, the one that winters on the Colorado prairies and the one that is wintering by Rose Pond.  The prairie Merlin is expanding its range taking advantage of planted trees in city parks in the north prairie states and provinces. In parts of their range they focus on hunting waxwings but they will chase down any bird from the size of a flicker or smaller.  

Merlin comes from the French word,  esmerillon, the Old French name for this species.  In Medieval Europe, Merlins became popular as a “lady’s hawk” and they were used in "ringing flights" directed at the European bird, Skylark.  Catherine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots were both enthusiasts of this falconry sport and although the sport is still popular in Great Britain, there is now public pressure to stop it. Although small, Merlins can chase down their quarry flying at speeds up to 50 mph.
Posted by Bill M. on 01/06/2012

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