Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Smart Bird

I was going to call this blog “Frozen Bird,” but I didn’t want you to think I was blogging about  dead bird.  It’s about being ‘frozen,’ i. e. very, very still. 

Have you seen a bird frozen still?  It is different from just resting and being still.  There is a relaxed posture when resting.  ‘Frozen’ happens when the bird is hoping, hoping something isn’t going to see it.  Often when I spot a bird on a nest it freezes.  “I’m not here.  I’m just part of this lumpy scenery.”  Many female birds have dull colors so they can blend all that much better.  

I’ve been watching a ‘frozen’ bird on a twig near my feeder.  I was eating my morning bowl of hot steel cut oats, blueberries picked last summer, walnuts and yogurt.  I look out onto my feeder area.  --- Very quiet. 

Then I noticed one bird, a frozen house finch.  I checked the time; 9:03 AM (lazy start to my morning!).  I finished breakfast:  9:10 AM; and started doing little chores.  I continued to keep an eye on my bird.  By then Dale had pointed out there were actually two in the bush, two frozen birds. 
By now I’m sure there is a hawk in the area -- probably a sharp-shinned hawk, possibly a Cooper’s hawk.  They can become a real pest at a feeder.  One year I watched a sharpie grab and pluck a pine siskin – a little bird that weights about as much as a puff of air.  It took him 20 minutes to plunk and eat.  I was sketching by then so I was watching carefully.  When finished, the sharpie popped down into the bushes where another siskin must have been frozen.  More dinner for the hawk and more sketching for me. 

And then the sharpie dropped down and grabbed a third siskin!  Obviously staying frozen doesn’t always work.  It didn’t fool this hawk.  The hawk flew off with the third bird. 

But my best watching-a-frozen-bird sighting had a happier ending.  I was washing dishes and watching some juncos on my deck.  Suddenly one froze; hanging onto an almost vertical broom handle leaning on the deck railing.  I couldn’t see the hawk, but I was sure one was perched over the house.  The junco was in an awkward position and I happened to look at the clock -- twenty minutes!  Finally he relaxed and flew off. 

This morning’s watching had a happy ending too.  I don’t know how long the finches had been frozen when I first noticed one.  But it was 13 minutes before a couple of new birds arrived and started bouncing around in the bush.  The two I’d been watching relaxed and soon were amongst the flock of birds foraging on the cracked corn we throw out for them.

By the way, ‘chick scratch’ is excellent food for many of the ground feeders.  Chick starter is too fine; hen scratch is too coarse for sparrows.  Chick scratch is like coarse corn meal.


  1. What great stories! I'm both happy and sad to report that our recent sharp-shinned hawk visitor did not stick around. But I'm sure our feeder birds are happy!

  2. Ahh, something new to watch for. Thanks Elva! Beautiful artwork as always.
    We got to see a flicker in our flicker box yesterday.

  3. This sure is an example of how the Art of painting and drawing is such a great tool for studying the details and habits of wildlife. I will pay more attention to Frozen Wildlife. Love the House Finch!

  4. I've seen many frozen birds. I shoo off the hawks tho...I'm not farming birds for them. :)