Readers’ wildlife videos

Because I’m having trouble braining this morning (I haven’t yet made my latte with three shots of espresso), I’ll eschew the laborious process of making a readers’ wildlife post, and instead present you with two treat videos by reader Tara Tanaka from Florida. The first shows a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) making a cavity; Tara has a detailed explanation at the Vimeo site. Pileated woodpeckers are amazing; I describe some of their adaptations on pp. 114-115 of Why Evolution is True.

And Tara sent notes on this one, called called “Thanksgiving Morning Bunnies”:

Part of this one is featured in the Windland Awards video that is now on display in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for the next year. Look for the cottontails in the background.

Her notes on Vimeo add that this was filmed Thanksgiving morning at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico:

This was shot with a GH4 and Nikon 105mm lens + a GH4 mounted on a Swarovski STX85 spotting scope. The bunnies appear in the background and you can see them out of focus at a distance until I get the scope on them and capture them with 1000mm.

I’m thankful for many things today, but right now I can’t stop smiling after witnessing two bunnies playing a game whose goal, after watching them in slow motion over and over, must be to touch noses while in they are both in mid-air.

I was sitting on the ground and had set up one video camera with a 105mm lens to video Gamble’s Quail in more of a wide-angle shot than my digiscoping gear would allow, and was digiscoping photos with my scope. I looked up from the viewfinder to see two Desert Cottontails playing in the background. I was going to take photos but decided it really needed to be captured on video, so I switched to video and started recording them through the scope. They were not in the focused area of the wide angle camera, but at least the whole scene was captured.

Are they fighting? Trying to mate? Or just playing? Readers with lagomorph expertise should weigh in below.



  1. GBJames
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing that the bunnies are in some kind of mock territory competition.

  2. George
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Are the bunny rabbits trying to imitate bison?

    Head-Butting Bison

  3. Debbie Coplan
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    My experience with domestics rabbits and I had rescued quite a few in the past, is that they are in fighting mod. Their tails are erect and they are jumping at each other. I think the only thing stopping them from going for the eyes and the genitals, which domestics do when fighting, is that there is plenty of space around them so they can show their alpha behavior and not have to engage. If they were in a closed or limited space they might have had a full battle and can do lots of harm to each other.
    Simply to house two out more domestics together I had to fix them and take them to neutral territory together in hopes that they would like each other and sometimes that didn’t even work. Rabbits are territorial and vicious about it. The fights are brutal and it’s hard to believe these sweet cute little bunnies tear each other apart if space is limited.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I agree, and add the boxing front legs. Typical aggressive behavior, AFAIK.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      The guy on the right has been in fights before. Note the notch in his left ear.

  4. Randy Schenck
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Apparently it takes a better/faster internet service than I have for Vimeo. Don’t have trouble with Youtube but the Vimeo is just stop, start, stop.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      If your line is too slow, sometimes you can start it to get it going, then push pause and leave it for a while while the film downloads. If that doesn’t work you are in need of a 21st century upgrade.

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Yes, I’m afraid you are correct.

        • Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          Hi Randy,
          You may have already tried this, but if you click the “HD” to turn it off (white), it will stream a much lower bit-rate and you may be able to watch it.
          Thanks for trying!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Randy, I usually have that problem with Vimeo too. I’ve used rickflick’s method with some success. Tonight both these vids played with only one short interruption each–a good night for my DSL, I guess. This is ironic because I switched to Vimeo when I got mad at Google and have uploaded a few vids there myself.

      Tara, the sped-up Pileated footage with the William Tell Overture soundtrack is a hoot! Perfect match! 😀

      In the bunny flick I enjoyed the quail & sparrows just as much, though how wonderful to have stumbled upon the rabbit rage! Never has a territorial display looked so cute.

  5. rickflick
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I will reproduce my comments from Vimeo:

    1. Pileated Woodpecker – Fascinating. I’m just amazed at how effectively the bird can drill into the tree. The head goes back a long ways and drives the sharp beak with great power and accuracy. A delight to see. Thanks for your effort once again.

    2. Bunnies – Very amusing. I have to guess they were getting to know each other with thoughts of raising a family.

  6. Randy Schenck
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I cannot specifically identify the tree but it has to be a soft wood. Still is some job. The woodpecker is specially adapted to prevent concussions so they should do well in the NFL.

    • Posted December 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      It’s a dead water oak. We had it topped as the top was in danger of hitting the house when it falls, but we left everything else for the woodpeckers. It’s a shame that most people automatically have the whole tree removed if one dies. It’s only been dead a year and we’ve already had two other species use the cavity besides the woodpecker. If it ever gets cold this winter I think he may move in.

  7. John Harshman
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    What a pity that nobody will be able to get a similar video of a ivory-billed or imperial woodpecker.

    • GBJames
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      I had exactly that thought, too.

      • Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        Every day that I get up early to video birds and wildlife, I think that someday these birds too will likely be extinct, and I want to leave as much of a record as possible of their behavior behind for future generations. We did our wills last year, and I am leaving all of my photos and video to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

        • GBJames
          Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Excellent photography, btw.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          That’s a great idea. I’m sure they will make good use of these films. I’d have to say, your hard work is worth it. I’m sure much of the behavior you capture has been noted before but never in such outstanding visual quality.

  8. darrelle
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    The woodpecker video is wonderful. I’ve always know that they do that but this is the first time I’ve seen it, all at once, start to finish. What a mess!

    Regarding the rabbits, I’m thinking Killer Rabbits. Is there a bridge nearby? They are probably arguing over who gets to guard the bridge next.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Love your videos…so entertaining plus learning is involved. Yay!

    So how long would you say it took the woodpecker to create its hole?

    I found it amusing that the quails paid no attention to the rabbits’ fusses.

    • Posted December 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Thnanks Mark!! He started the cavity in the fall, but just created a shallow depression. In the spring he spent about 2 – 3 days finishing it.

      I’m glad everyone weighed in on the rabbit behavior – I really thought they were just playing. When viewing the video frame by frame, they touched noses three times!

      • Mark R.
        Posted December 10, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        It took longer than I would have guessed. Thanks for the info. 🙂

  10. p. puk
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    The bunnies are debating the existence of a supreme deity. Not fighting or mating.

    Nothing to see here… Move along now folks.

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