Yesterday, the neighbor practicing falconry was out in the yard, working his bird–it’s a probably-a-male juvenile red-tailed hawk.* It was fascinating to hear about how you hunt with a falcon–apparently the bird more or less uses the humans as beaters to roust game, and goes after squirrels and rabbits and whatnot that the humans have flushed out of cover. Also, apparently what height the bird likes to fly at is a significant factor, because they’re hunting in a forest (or will be–hunting season doesn’t actually start until next week.) so according to this gentleman, if the bird habitually flies too low, the squirrels pretty much just shoot up the tree until they’re above it, and then the bird would have to kinda hop through the branches after them, which requires a whole lot of effort on the part of the bird.
My vague notion of falconry was always of something done in large open fields, so this was news to me. I didn’t know you mucked about in forests at all.
My own, rather less carnivorous birding, has been limited to a few species–we’re getting Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, mourning doves and the occasional white-breasted nuthatch on the feeders, and that’s about it. (If I put the finch sock back up, presumably there’d be goldfinches again, too.) All nice little birds–okay, the nuthatchs are kind’ve jerks–but those are absolutely the most common yard birds, and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of anybody else. Not even any of the common woodpeckers, no warblers, who’d I expect to be migrating through about now (at least the pine and yellow-rumped varieties.) No house finches, either, although those may be a more urban species. I didn’t expect to get pileated woodpeckers in the birdbath or anything, but I’m surprised at the relative paucity of species, all things considered.
I had sort of expected that such a rural area would be crazy with birds, but it occurs to me that maybe I have it backwards. A city is basically a desert, after all, so if you put out a feeder and a birdbath in the heart of the city, you’ve provided an oasis and birds flock to it in relief. Out here, they’ve got plentiful food sources and plenty of water. Maybe they have no need to visit my little feeder? Or perhaps I’m just being too impatient–maybe in a few more weeks, I’ll be fighting the juncoes off with a stick. Hard to say, hard to say…
*Isn’t there a convention in medieval falconry whereby all birds are referred to as female? Or am I confusing birds with boats again?