Downy Found

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Downy Woodpecker male (Dryobates pubescens)

This bird comes to our suet feeder regularly. I’d not seen it in Chavez Park until now. There it was around noon in the Native Plant Area, on that odd-shaped leftover of a dead tree near the Toyon and the Monterey Pines on the south side. The red bar on its head marks it as a male.

The bird was probing the old wood on this snag for bugs. It’s primarily an insect eater. Researchers have found that upwards of three quarters of its diet is insect protein, the remainder berries, seeds, and similar vegetarian fare. The bird was not excavating a nest cavity and it wasn’t drumming to find a mate. This wouldn’t be the season for that.

They do nest all over the United States from east to west, but they’re not as dense in the west as east of the Rockies. Males and females tend to have different foraging preferences and to lead separate lives except during the breeding months, when they form pairs and team up to tend to the chicks. The male tends to do more of the egg-sitting and then feeding the hatchlings than the female. When the little ones can fly, the pair gradually dissolves. Whether the same birds get together next breeding season isn’t well known.

I hope to see this bird more often. I’ve scanned the site almost daily and haven’t seen it again.

Burrowing Owl Update

The Burrowing Owl continues to shuttle between its two chosen perches. On Tuesday the 15th it was on Perch B, the spot below the big fennel bush where you can see the top of its head from the paved perimeter trail if you know where to look. On Wednesday it was on Perch A, the spot next to a dried California Poppy bush where you can only see it from the Open Circle Viewpoint with a long lens. Today, Thursday, it was back on Perch B, much to the delight of a dozen early park visitors. When I first had it in the lens it seemed rather sleepy, with its eyes half shut and its head swiveling slowly. Then — while my video was off — a passing crow dive-bombed the owl, and the owl scrambled for cover. The crow moved on. Five minutes later the owl resurfaced and took up its spot again.

I’ve filmed a previous encounter between a Burrowing Owl and American Crows; see “Owl Defies Crows” Jan 15 2020. The owl there convinced the crows to back off and stop bothering it. Since that time I’ve not seen crows attacking an owl until just this morning. This crow was flying south along with another crow and, seeing the owl, dive-bombed like a trigger reaction, and then kept on flying and didn’t come back. Crows frequently mob and harass bigger raptors like Red-tailed Hawks and White-tailed Kites. I haven’t seen that pattern with the Burrowing Owls. My guess (and my hope) is that this incident was an isolated case.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Nov 17 2022

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