Wrens and Drums, Hawks and Grackles

Well known for building their nests in odd or even foolish locations, we here at the Museum of Life and Science have again offered a Carolina wren the opportunity of raising a brood in one of our air canons in Catch the Wind. I say again, because they nested successfully in one of the canons at the Vapor Rings Exhibit in Catch the Wind last year.

Pound on red drum surface and a current of air travels to sequined board beyond.
Nest is inside hole in front of drum, or “canon.”

I evicted them earlier in the season as one of the wrens began building a bulky leaf and grass nest in one of the canons. Not totally committed to the site, they abandoned that drum. However, they decided to build in the canon immediately to the left of the original nest. I should have been more vigilant, because now, there are eggs in the nest. The wrens win. I don’t want to evict while there are eggs, particularly when they’re being incubated. So as long as the wrens are comfortable with their current location, they may stay.

Wren sitting tight on nest in air canon.

Elsewhere along the outdoor loop here at the museum, a pair of red-shouldered hawks is nesting in the woods behind and beyond the red wolf enclosure. The parents are spending much of their time securing food for their young in the nest. They’re accustomed to the movements of people through their space staying cool, calm, and collected as visitors pass by them silently hunting from a perch along the path.

What does sometimes rustle their feathers is harassment by passerines. Discovering the hawks in the vicinity, the smaller birds attempt to remove the threat by bombarding the hawk with fly-bys, sometimes making contact with the hawk’s back or top of head. But caution is advised, the hawk could potentially make a meal of a careless attacker.

Often the hawks simply ignore the smaller birds’ assault, but I imagine it’s vexing when you’re trying to remain silent and not draw attention to oneself in the pursuit of prey.

The hawk below was perched at the edge of the wetlands a few feet in from the main path.

Hawk glances up at grackles above.
Grackle buzzes by hawk, but not too close.
Not pleased with the attention it has attracted.

Time and again the common grackles made passes at the hawk.

A double attack.
They dived and squawked at the hawk with purpose.

After many minutes, the grackles gave up, leaving the hawk to its hunting. The mob response seems to be an instinctual reaction to predators wherever they’re encountered, especially during breeding season. The hawk was not hunting in the immediate vicinity of a grackle’s nest. The grackles were in the area hunting for tadpoles and fish for their young in a nest a 1/4 mile away.

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