Readers’ wildlife videos

We have two videos today, the first from reader Rick Longworth.

Having moved from New York to Idaho this year, I’ve been on the lookout for a differences in the assortment of bird species.   I’ve been filming a pair of black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri), a western species, which took up residence near the house (inspired by Stephen Barnard).  They zip around like little fluffy blurs (70 wing beats per second), so I’ve filmed them at 40% speed.  The male has a favorite branch in a dead tree where he sits to ambush small insects. He sometimes struggles with the gusty wind.  I noticed the black chin actually flashes a bright iridescent violet when it’s at just the right angle, so I set my camera to view him head-on at the feeder.  The last part of the film records the female – less showy, but very elegant.   She must have been sitting on eggs last week. I rarely saw her.  I suspect they’ve hatched since she now visits the feeder as often as the male.

Look at their tiny feet!

And the latest from Stephen Barnard on his pair of America kestrels (Falco sparverius) nesting in a box affixed to his garage:

This is an unusual video that fits in with your bird-attack theme. The kestrels are continually being pestered by obnoxious Brewer’s Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus). The blackbirds will even bomb me and Deets and Hitch [JAC: the latter two are border collies] when I mind the camera. You can hear their harsh, ugly call in the soundtrack. Even their scientific name sounds unpleasant. They’re about the same size as the kestrels, but adapted for more generalized flight. They seem to have an advantage in a slow-speed dogfights where the kestrels’ speed advantage is absent.

Natasha had a plan. She spots a blackbird that was probably munching on the vole I pushed off the tripod head onto the ground this morning. She attacks. In the commotion one of the birds, or both, shakes the tripod, and Natasha proceeds to do a number on the blackbird, as you can tell from the soundtrack.

So here’s my question for you. Is it plausible that the kestrels are engaging in baiting? Is that the reason they left the vole on the tripod? I’ve never heard of such a thing before, and why would they
leave a perfectly good vole out in a conspicuous place, to waste when they have chicks to feed? This could be an accident, a coincidence, but maybe there’s purposeful behavior.

My own guess is that this was an accident, but what do I know? Readers?




  1. Posted June 5, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Wow– so what happened to the blackbird? Did it become chick food?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Certainly sounds like it.

  2. Liz
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    The violet on the hummingbird is so interesting and beautiful.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Watching the hummingbird in flight, close up, in slo mo is very cool.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, lovely work Rick. Most enjoyable.

  3. Posted June 5, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Please elaborate on how the vole got onto the camera tripod in the first place.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Read THIS WEIT WILDLIFE POST from two days ago. Start reading after the 4th photo. I believe that is all that’s known about the tripod/vole affair.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        They launched an investigation. You can be sure, the whole story will soon come out.

      • Posted June 5, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I’d missed that one. Amazing photos.

        My guess is the kestrel was not laying in wait for the other bird.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Has the vole-on-tripod happened more than once?

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      No, but I observed Boris leaving a partially eaten vole on the roof of the nest box. Shortly after, Natasha was especially vigilant from the entrance, like she was looking for victims. Maybe I’m anthropomorphising.

      These blackbirds are super obnoxious. The kestrels obviously hate them.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Maybe set up a couple/few faux tripods and see if any get vole-baited. Could be interesting – and maybe you could get a paper out of it, to boot!

  5. Posted June 5, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Perhaps voles are so plentiful about your ranch that the kestrels feel free to “waste one” to better attack the blackbird?

    I have observed what I believe to be Steller’s jays using food to misdirect crows away from their nests. Baiting is a form of misdirection.

    BTW, you are right that Brewer’s are nasty birds. One day one attacked me out of the blue and pecked my head while I was out on my daily walk.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I am inclined to think it a coincidence, caused by an abundance of voles and a forgetful kestrel. But if the pattern is repeated, then I would start to think more about baiting.

  7. Posted June 5, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Well done, rickflick.

  8. Posted June 5, 2018 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Great hummingbird video!

    Could the kestrel be making sure the tripod is not a threat? (i.e., Leave out food, wait and see what happens? Is the tripod alive?!)

  9. Andrea Kenner
    Posted June 6, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I love how the hummingbirds keep their tiny little feet curled up under them. And I think I noticed the female hummingbird’s tiny tongue sticking out of the end of her beak. Very nice video!

    • rickflick
      Posted June 7, 2018 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Yes, the tongue is visible, and it’s white!

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