Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Atypical Broad-wing Feeding Behavior

Broad-winged Hawks are returning to Vermont since departing New England last September for their principal wintering range in northern South America.  The first report of 2017 was on April 11 from Putney.  Since then sightings have steadily increased.  This is our smallest breeding hawk of the genus Buteo with an average total length of 15 inches followed closely in size by the Red-shouldered Hawk (16 inches) and the Red-tailed Hawk (19 inches).

This is a relatively common hawk nesting in woodland habitats.  Its diet is varied consisting of small mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, small birds, large insects, and earthworms.  Today I encountered a Broad-winged Hawk picking earthworms off the surface of a paved residential driveway (photos follow).  That the hawk was eating earthworms wasn't as much as a surprise as where it was feeding. The bird was observed consuming no less than a half dozen worms in an environment more expected of foraging robins.  After having migrated as much as 4,000+ miles on average between winter and summer ranges no doubt energy reserves are depleted and with nesting season approaching getting back into prime physical and physiological condition are critical.   Today's rainy and cool temperatures (40s) may not be prime conditions for encountering small mammals but earthworms are easy pickings at least for this hawk.


Saturday, April 1, 2017


March weather in Vermont this year has been sort of a roller coaster ride.  A spell of unseasonably warm daytime temperatures during late February through early March kicked off maple sugaring season and the northward bound hordes of Canada Geese and other waterfowl.  Ice covering the Connecticut River broke up and ice floes flushed out earlier than usual, and open-water conditions on rivers, streams and many of the larger lakes forebode an early spring, or so it appeared, and then a return to winter.  More snow was forecast for yesterday, and this morning we woke to 13 inches of new snow carpeting the yard.  No April Fools joke...just early spring in the Green Mountain State more or less as usual.

All winter we have had a flock of Wild Turkeys numbering between 26 and 31 birds making nearly daily visits to the yard to feed on cracked corn.  With increasing day length we observed this past week two toms come into season showing off their finest "attire" before the hens which seemed not to pay any attention to them but rather focus on consuming corn.  The following movie clip was taken from the dining room window.

The recent snow storm was followed by considerable bird activity at our feeders with 18 species tallied for today.  Of special note was an adult male Pine Warbler feeding on suet and seeds.  While shoveling snow, it could be heard singing (a high, musical trill) from the tall pines hear the house.