We had a snow storm approaching Minnesota last weekend and the day before I headed over to the bird feeders at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to see if they were getting any Pine Siskins or Common Redpolls (surprisingly, no).
The feeders were incredibly active which is to be expected before a snow storm. I do enjoy watching a really active bird feeder with dozens of Black-capped Chickadees zipping to and fro, Northern Cardinals dotting the surrounding shrubs awaiting their approach and woodpeckers of all shapes and sizes jockeying for position on a skinny suet feeder. The rush hour like rush is comforting to me and has been since I was a kid. I could stare at it for hours.
Even though I wasn’t getting any of that hot winter finch action, I like to keep my digiscoping skills sharp and practiced on the finches. Then I noticed this House Finch has his eye on something and quit moving. I glanced around at the other finches…
This American Goldfinch almost cracked me up, it was frozen in mid bite on a black-oil sunflower. I even got video of the birds and you can clearly see this bird not moving, seed wedged firmly into place. I knew there had to be a hawk around somewhere, nothing else will make birds freeze like this.
After getting some video, I scanned the trees.
Sure enough I found an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk, the bird could see movement in the windows and flushed even though I was inside and it was high up in a tree outside. Incidentally, the above bird is an immature sharp-shinned that I digiscoped last winter in the exact same spot, but is not the the bird that caused all the finches to freeze in the video.
Accipiters like sharpies and Cooper’s Hawks are very ADHD in their behavior and when they see movement, they go for it. I think smaller birds learn this over time and experienced birds freeze at the feeders and keep an eye on the hawk to prevent being eaten.
Also, for those who enjoy digiscoping, all of the images and video in this post were taken using my Swarovski spotting scope and iPhone.
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog, Birdchick.com, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.
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