Category Archives: Bird Behaviour

How birds behave, strange features, fighting, eating….

Young female Goshawk attacked by Kestrel in the Eifel

While observing the bird migration on the Bürvenicher Berg at the edge of the Eifel, I could see a young Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) flying elegantly low over a field. Striking were the size and the flight pattern on top, which was determined by a brown color and the rather broad, curved wings at the rear edge. A powerful bird that then perched in a dry elderberry tip. Immediately a male of a pair of Eurasian Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), which had been sitting on its perch significantly further down the slope, started calling. The young female hawk was not impressed by this. Thereupon the young Goshawk was vehemently attacked first by the male, then also by the female Eurasian Kestrel. Above all, the male of the Kestrel rose regularly in the morning sky, then hit the edge of the forest with the elderberry with flung wings, caught himself in the fall less than 3 meters above the Goshawk and circled around and in close contact the bare branches of the bush. The young female Goshawk did recognize that it was the subject of the attacks, regularly turned her head in the direction of the attacker, then sometimes up in the sky. All in all, however, she remained extremely unimpressed and did not let her morning perch scare her away.

The female of the Kestrel could also be heard quite loudly, but did not step into such a vehement attack and stayed largely away from the flight action. In an unobserved moment the female Goshawk Continue reading Young female Goshawk attacked by Kestrel in the Eifel

Woodpeckers and their breeding cavities

SchwarzspechtSpring is marked by striking drums that reverberate loudly through the forest. In addition to their drumming, the calls, which can be heard especially in spring and autumn and allow the species to be distinguished from afar, are noticeable. Like no other bird family, the woodpeckers in Central Europe represent the forest habitat.

It is the same when, in early spring, powerful hammer blows sound far through the morning forest. All that is missing are the occasional, far-reaching calls to confirm the assumption. The Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) marks its territory.

In his “Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas”, Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim describes in detail the preferences of Black Woodpeckers with regard to their breeding trees. The black woodpecker is quite picky about cave trees. For the creation of breeding and sleeping caves, the Black Woodpecker primarily prefers old beeches. This predilection usually makes the Black Woodpecker a typical inhabitant of deciduous forests in Central Europe.

Almost all woodpeckers build caves and thus open up resting, breeding and food sources for a variety of animal species. They are therefore of particular importance for the forest ecosystem. Numerous fascinating adaptations to the tree as shelter and food source characterize this group of birds, as well as their high cognitive abilities. The self-made caves, specially set up forges as a simple form of tool use, ring marks on trees, and the almost omnipresent chopping marks bear witness to the presence of woodpeckers in our forests. Bird-lens.com has written about woodpeckers in their breeding burrows for some species. So for the Black Woodpecker breeding in poplar tree, Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius) or the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in orchards.

Each species has its own preferences. Smaller woodpeckers often use dead trees that are already quite rotten to build their caves. The Continue reading Woodpeckers and their breeding cavities

Anhingas in Florida

SchlangenhalsvogelThe ditch along the visitor’s trail is teeming with fish. Suddenly a sharp, dart-like beak emerges out of the water right in front of us. It is followed by a long piece of neck. Like a snake, Anhingas – the snakebird – (Anhinga anhinga) glides silently through the water. Its water-permeable plumage reduces the buoyancy that occurs during diving and suppresses any rippling. For a while we see the slender bird body still sliding underneath us through the fairly clear water. Now it’s time to take care. Far more spectacular than Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) they fish under water. Anhingas use their pointed beak like a harpoon. The long neck, which is bent back in an S-shape before being impacted works like a taut feather and allows lightning-fast fishing under water. The Anhinga Trail in Florida’s Everglades offers ideal conditions to observe these black fish hunters. They harpoon the fish by piercing it with their closed beak. Then they look for a gnarled branch on the shore. Now the photographer has to react quickly. A special behavior follows a most interesting ritual. Anhingas try to free themselves from the pierced fish, in order to finally be able to swallow it. It often throws the prey into the air with impetus before catching him and finally devouring him. A little later, one can expect the Anhinga to spread its wings and let it dry itself from the sun.

With every drop of water that the sun draws from the wet plumage, the bird becomes more beautiful, especially if it is a male. If one then discovers one in the breeding dress, you can only hope that it sits as close as possible to the trail. Then it is possible to capture the bright Continue reading Anhingas in Florida

Dancing in the Rain: a Coot

There are only remnants of the former alluvial forest belt along the Rhine between Bonn and Düsseldorf. Thick clouds stand over the Rhine near Cologne-Porz. A humid temperature, as it is not unusual for the Cologne Bay in summer. Reluctantly at first: drizzle. Then a rain shower pelts the relics of an alluvial forest in Porz-Zündorf, south of Cologne. A family of Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) were already noticed, among the other water birds like Llittle Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) and above all Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The adult Eurasian Coot raised at least 3 young already. The young look well-fed, but are still a bit whimpering and continue to beg their parents. The most independent young ventures further out into the lake area. It climbs on a floating piece of wood and from there tries to take in food from the surface of the water. When the rain falls, it looks irritated at first. When the rain increases in intensity and thick raindrops make the water “boil”, it can no longer contain itself. It stands up, taps up with its disproportionately large webbed feet and then even lifts its wings and flaps them up and down again and again. An enthusiastic dance for the rain!

There are only remnants of the former alluvial forest belt along the Rhine between Bonn and Düsseldorf. Above all, the old arms are only present in meager remnants. The former arm of the Rhine – the Groov – forms an extensive Rhine meadow landscape, characterized by trees, some of which are centuries old. Originally the Groov was Continue reading Dancing in the Rain: a Coot

A memory of a Pterosaur

An image that could have come from a book about pterosaurs due to the monochrome background of a late afternoon sky. A larger winged animal is being chased by a tern against a pinkish-gray sky. The body posture or the cutout from a body turn seems almost artistic and unusual. Although, the background of the photo is just trivial. A Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) had flown over a mixed colony of Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). As a large bird, the Gray Heron was immediately identified by the Common Tern as a potential breeding predator and approached. Since the Gray Heron flew steadfastly towards the breeding rafts of the gull colony and eventually crossed them, the attacks were intensified, mainly by the Common Terns. The aggressive attacks of the Common Terns were impressive, as they were on skin-better feather contact with the Gray Heron. When trying to escape the predicament, it was amazing to see what contortions a flying Gray Heron is capable of. How much the Gray Heron was afraid of the situation could also be seen from the high-pitched croaking calls that the Heron made loudly.

Of course, the comparison between the dislocating Gray Heron and a pterosaur is based on the fragments of science published with which we are familiar. Much of the way of life and flight abilities of the Pterosaurs are still completely unknown. It is generally assumed that especially the small species could actively fly very well. Until now, it was assumed that the large Pterosaurs – which also brought Continue reading A memory of a Pterosaur

Pied Wheatear only 150 km south of Berlin

According to ornitho.de a Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) can now be seen far north of its regular distribution/ breeding area. This male individual, now molting into new plumage, can currently be seen on the Alte Elbe near Kathewitz; approx. 10 km as the crow flies from Torgau in northern Saxonia.

When I came to the place already visited and described by many ornithologists in the early morning, I first found: nothing. A truck came and unloaded a few pallets with paving stones for the new road behind the dike. That may have caused a certain restlessness and background noise, which the Wheatear might not like. I spent almost 1 hour on the spot without even seeing the Pied Wheatear.

I checked several times all the spots that came to my mind along the dike section. They should be characterized by maximally sparse vegetation and an accumulation of stones or split. In the meantime, I had already seen a, a successfully hunting Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) with some Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) harassing on him, a Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) on a plum tree along the access track and 2 Little Terns (Sternula albifrons) with captured fish in their bills .

Finally, I could see a striking white-headed, pied bird on a pallet of paving stones. Yes, this was the Pied Wheatear!  However, the bird was quite shy and disappeard already to a distance. When it Continue reading Pied Wheatear only 150 km south of Berlin

Prey and spectrum of food of European Bee-eater

BienenfresserThe name already reveals part of the food spectrum of the magnificent birds. Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) lead a short, eventful life in Germany. The colorful birds only arrive in our latitudes in the second half of May. Bee-eaters feed exclusively on insects, specializing in the hunting of large and medium-sized flying insects. Bees, bumblebees, beetles, wasps, dragonflies and butterflies are among their main prey. In order to hunt them efficiently, the Bee-eater needs a “perch”, an elevated twig, from which it can start hunting. Birds’ habitats therefore always include old trees with bare branches or tall shrubs. In order to avoid stings from its defensive prey, the Bee-eater subjects its victims to a truly murderous treatment. Before devouring them, he kills non-toxic insects by knocking them on a branch several times. Or he occasionally throws them in the air and catches them again. European Bee-eaters always grab “poison-biting” insects on the abdomen and hits them once or twice on a branch before rubbing the end of their abdomen on a branch. This is how the poison is drawn  out of bees or wasps and is removed thereafter. After a few more hits on the head, the insect is finally ready to eat. Who likes to risk a stab in the esophagus?

Because of its food spectrum, the bee-eater relies on a warm climate. Over the centuries European Bee-eaters has continued to expand its distribution area to the north. But it is an eventful story of expansion and withdrawal. The Bee-eater is currently on the rise Continue reading Prey and spectrum of food of European Bee-eater

Ospreys attack White-tailed Eagle at the nest

FischadlerTheir nests are never far from water. The bulky structures are often high on a pylon for the power supply. Sometimes the nests are scattered over the landscape, sometimes they are not far from a road or a village. A nest of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) not far from a parallel main road made me linger early one morning. The early summer day was still very fresh. It was pleasantly cool. The air was filled with singing birds. The roaring calls of the Common Cranes (Grus grus) could be heard as well as the melodious song of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus).

When dawn allowed for the first light, male and female of the Osprey initially sat on the nest. Then a partner flew to a power pole about 100 meters away. Suddenly the Osprey sitting on the nest went up, then his partner. With high shouts they flew purposefully towards a wood. The reason was quickly recognized. A White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) had made its way to the lake along the edge of the wood. The proximity to the nest was not tolerated. The White-tailed Eagle was repeatedly attacked by the Ospreys. The alternating attacks were obviously considered by the White-tailed Eagle to be so uncomfortable or even threatening that it threw itself on its back a few times in the air and stretched its catch towards the Osprey. At some point the White-tailed Eagle had disappeared Continue reading Ospreys attack White-tailed Eagle at the nest

Little Grebe: offspring in Brandenburg

ZwergtaucherA high rhythmic whine can be heard as soon as I enter the reservoir. But nothing can be seen. Then a ripple of the water surface in front of the reed belt can be seen. The duckweed rises and falls noticeably. Then a small, dark-black bird appears. It has a maroon neck and a bright yellow spot on the base of the beak. Only when looking through the binoculars does the species become apparent. It is a Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), who uses this retention basin to breed its offspring. The 2 tiny nestlings on one of their first excursions can be quickly overlooked and are only easily recognized when the adult bird feeds the offspring with caught insect larvae. Then the cubs swim amazingly briskly and feverishly towards the adult bird. Now the bright ring of the eye and the yellowish beak of the young birds are noticeable. The nestlings are colored blackish-dark brown and have white lines in the plumage and on the forehead.

I have time and  can lie down on a jetty and watch and photograph the Little Grebes while they are busy searching for food. Both boys were quite different in age and development. One was almost twice the size of the other nestling. The adult bird – probably the mother – dives again and again in an obviously quite productive area, often Continue reading Little Grebe: offspring in Brandenburg

Young Nightingale in the countryside of Brandenburg

NachtigallLaterally, the warm first sunlight falls on the exposed hedge. A fence post stands picturesquely in front of it. For a long time, I look out of a hide at the place illuminated with the rise of the sun. The hedgerow is still in the shade. Suddenly, there is a grey-brownish bird standing on a branch in the shadow of the hedge in the middle of the Niederer Fläming. The yellow bordered bill and an obviously not yet pronounced cheek feathering could point to a young bird. I am undecided. The bird looks slim and really striking is the chestnut brown, long tail. The creamy-white bottom is striking as well. The most common bird in this oasis in the midst of the agricultural steppe is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus); immediately after comes the Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). But this bird belongs in another family. Quickly I think of a young Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), but I also do not want to exclude a young Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) first. But a little later I really see a small thrush exposed on a haystack. Striking is a dark beard in a white throat. In addition there is a dirty grey chest drawing. Yes, that is definitely a young Bluethroat. It looks very different from the grey-brownish bird. Slimmer and bigger. It is indeed a Common Nightingale.

First, the bird is still covered by branches and leaves. But then it sits free in the hedge. It is obviously keen to inspect the fence post. Finally, the young bird from the hedge flies to the stake, secures the Continue reading Young Nightingale in the countryside of Brandenburg

Little Terns breeding in Brandenburg

ZwergseeschwalbeThe gravel and sand pit opens up a view like over a prehistoric river landscape. Between shallow water areas, sandy areas, reeds the blue water sparkles. The edges of the pit are separated by heaped dams from the agricultural land. Suddenly a bird emerges at about the edge of the dam, which is characterized by a peculiar flight. Choppy wing movement is a feature. This is typical for the flight of the Little Tern (Sternula albifrons). The movement is easy and fast. In between, a sharp and shrill “ki-ki-kit” is heard again and again. Yes, the distinctive, penetrating calls of the Little Tern make it possible to identify and recognize them even at a distance. Sometimes the bird stops and hovers when hunting for fish at low altitude above the water surface. The Tern stands in the air until it has spotted a fish, circles into a dive, disappears with a lot of water splashes in the pebble lake, then (hopefully) catches a fish and rises again from the water under water splashes.

The Little Tern is a typical small tern. It is told apart from afar by its conspicuous flight, her size (if to assess) and especially the pale yellow beak with a small dark tip on. If you look closer, the white forehead (unlike the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) will stand in front of a black head cap. Like in the other Sterna-terns, the plumage Continue reading Little Terns breeding in Brandenburg

Photographing European Bee-eater: How and Where

BienenfresserA thin branch in the most beautiful evening light and on it a European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). This is an image many nature photographers want to shoot. This raises the question of course of what the Bee-eater’s habits and preferences are. If you take a closer look at Bee-eater photography, you ask yourself e.g. how a favorite habitat must look like, what a perfect breeding site must be like and which season is suitable at all.

Part of the solution to the problem is already solved by the food spectrum of the magnificent bird. Merops apiaster live a very flight-intensive life and feed exclusively on big  insects. The bird is specialized in the hunting of large and medium-sized flying insects. Bees, wasps, bumblebees, beetles, dragonflies and butterflies are among their main prey. In this respect, you will find more European Bee-eater where these main prey insects are found in large numbers. Furthermore, the Bee-eater is dependent on a warm climate due to its food source.

In order to be able to hunt the flying insects efficiently, European Bee-eaters need a “perch”, an elevated stig, from which it can start to hunt. Birds’ habitats therefore always include old trees with bare branches or tall shrubs. Continue reading Photographing European Bee-eater: How and Where