Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blakeman answers question about grizzly photo

Hi Marie,

Yesterday on Lincoln's Web site he posted some photos of Pale Male raiding a robin's nest and making off with one of the chicks. Lincoln has mentioned this behavior on his site once or twice in the past and today's grizzly (albeit natural) photos raised a question in my mind. Why would Pale Male choose to raid a robin's nest and make a meal of a scrawny chick rather than capture a plump adult pigeon or some other more satiating and satisfying prey item? Could selecting an easy, though less substantial, meal be a sign of his advancing age, or is this a common red tail behavior?


Robin Lynn

John Blakeman responds:


Red-tails commonly raid robin, grackle, and other birds' nests. It has nothing to do with age. A nice plump little robin nestling is just too tempting. The effort required to acquire the morsel is a mere low-power fly-in and -out. Nothing easier for less effort.

Like any other wild predator, red-tails have no morality or ethics, only an instinctive desire to acquire food easily and frequently.

Such depredations are an important element in the learning of hunting by first-summer red-tails. These easy pickings can allow the new hawks to survive their first summer when their hunting skills aren't yet sufficient to capture fully healthy and adult prey.

Of course, this is why robins commonly produce two or three broods of three or four nestlings. Very few will ever survive to adulthood.

--John Blakeman