Corvid behavior and migrants

Jim Chiropolos

I have been enjoying watching the corvid behavior from my yard recently. Scrub jays are nesting in the next yard over, and crows are nesting in Monterey Pines in the next-next yard. Once a day, a raven makes a pass through the yard area. As the raven soars on through, one-by-one, all the nesting crows in the neighborhood make a sally to let the raven know this is not their airspace. I think we have three crow nests in the neighborhood as this is an excellent way to census crows. The close-to-home pair is especially protective. This pair is sallies out when a turkey vulture flys within 100 feet - the only one in the neighborhood to do so. I can imagine the turkey vulture thinking - "Why me, I'm harmless" but that's not what the local crows think.

The crow - scrub jay interaction is especially interesting. As long as the crows stay 20 feet and use the upper telephone wire perches, the scrub jays ignore them. But if the crows use the lower telephone wires (six-feet lower), a sudden loud screech is heard and the scrub jays drive the offending crow off. For the first year, the crows have become aware of the yard suet feeder. The suet feeder is a prized possession of the scrub jay territory and in past years, they have aggressively driven away the Steller's jays using the live oaks from the suet feeder. I wondered, what will happen with the crows? The crows don't stand a chance despite being bigger. If a scrub jay sees the crows by the suet feeder, a loud screech and they attack the crow who after a half-hearted defense, flies away leaving the suet feeder to the jay. That is not what I thought would happen!

Its been a good year for the chickadees nesting in the house, they are about to fledge a second clutch from the hole -in-the-house next. I enjoy being in the yard this time of year as there are always chickadees and titmouse chattering and young being fed. Maybe two families of each use the greater yard area.

Surprisingly, I had several migrants move through the yard this morning. A very late calling Cassin's vireo, an Olive-sided flycatcher and a yellow warbler were all seen this morning.

Lots to see out there!
Good Birding,
Jim Chiropolos, Orinda

Judith Dunham

Enjoyed your report, Jim!

Over here, a mile south of UC Berkeley, we have been amused by the antics of an American Crow pair nesting for the second season in tall trees three properties to the east of us. For months, the adults have been coming to our backyard. We have plentiful amenities: a fenced small pond; two large shallow dishes of water (to keep the raccoons, skunks, and possums happy and out of the pond); and a smaller flat dish of water set in the branches of a low tree. The crows prefer this small dish, not only for drinking but for soaking food. The crows--no puzzle about their ID. So we try to identify the food. Hey, that looks like half a bagel! Is that toast with or without crust? My goodness, half a sandwich. Cheese? Any ham with that? Now that the noisy kids are out of the nest, the adults are showing them the ropes. Here's the yard you want to visit. Here's the water. Now find your own sandwich.

Somewhat along these lines, the current New Yorker (cover with another priceless rendering by recent Pulitzer winner Barry Blitt) has a cartoon of two Rock Pigeons wearing headsets and sitting in chairs in front of screens, mimicking the look of air traffic controllers. One pigeon is doing the talking: "All units--we've got about half a revolting panini at the northeast corner of Bleeker and Tenth."

To conclude: A Swainson's Thrush stopped by our pond two evenings ago. Only the second I've observed in our yard.

Judith Dunham
Berkeley, CA

Hilary Powers

On 5/27/2020 11:28 AM, Judith Dunham wrote:
Enjoyed your report, Jim!

Over here, a mile south of UC Berkeley, we have been amused by the antics of an American Crow pair nesting for the second season in tall trees three properties to the east of us. ...
All good tales, and here's another -

The 4th-Wednesday non-Golden Gate Audubon walk at Lake Merritt (7 socially distanced birders this time!) witnessed another round of Crow vs Green Heron action. This time the heron was on its usual stamping grounds - the rip-rap alongside the near island - and the crow made what looked like repeated attempts to land on it, foiled every time by the reach of that short-sword beak. Eventually the crow wandered off.

What's up with this? Anyone ever seen a crow divert its mischief to a heron instead of a hawk?

~ Hilary Powers - Hilary@... - Oakland CA ~
~; ~
~ Needle Felted Sculpture - Real and Fantasy Creatures ~