Guess Who Dropped In For Lunch?

Originally, my friend Rick and I were tentatively scheduled to walk Nisqually Wildlife Refuge Wednesday, but Rick had to work, there was a light rain, and I resolved to save my rainy-day walks for later in the year when they become a necessary part of my everyday conditioning.

As it turns out, though, I doubt that I would have seen any more birds at the refuge than I saw in my own backyard. There were an unusually large number of birds at the feeder and all over the yard.

We even had a highly unusual visit by the neighborhood flicker, the one who refused to have his picture taken until I’d already gotten a better picture of his cousin last week at the refuge. Still, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to get another picture:

Of course, most of the visitors were the usual thrushes and wrens, but their visit was cut short by the sudden appearance of:

this Merlin falcon who stuck around long enough for me to take nearly thirty shots before he decided to chase down one of the visitors to our bird feeders.

While I love to see an increase of such predators, I generally chase them off and take down the feeders for a few days so as not to unnecessarily and unfairly endanger my little friends by my dismal attempts to make up for having built my house on their habitat.

I even felt a moment of remorse when our visitor went after one little guy who apparently arrived for lunch at the worst of times because I’d become so engrossed in trying to get its picture.

Still, it wasn’t long before the local family of crows who own this neighborhood could be seen in the distance divebombing the falcon, attempting to reclaim the ‘hood.

6 thoughts on “Guess Who Dropped In For Lunch?”

  1. Blue jays are said to be vigilant about screaming out alarms when there’s hawks in the neighborhood. Of course, if there’s none there when the hawks come, they can’t throw a shit-fit about it, so it still might not make for a safe neighborhood.

  2. Hi Loren,

    The photo you have posted on “guess-who-dropped-in” is a great shot: big, sharp, lots of detail. However, this is not a falcon, but a hawk, most likely a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. The Merlin and the SSH are often confused, but the eyes are usually a dead giveaway. Juvenile hawks have a bright yellow iris that changes to orange and then to dull read as the hawk matures. Falcons usually have no visible iris, the whole eye appears like one large pupil, but they often have a white or yellow band around the whole eye.

    The nostril is another clue: hawk nostrils are a simple hole, while falcon nostrils have a small, protuding cone. This slows down the air entering the nostril, allowing the falcon to breath easily even while diving at high speeds (this design was adopted from nature for use in modern jet engines).

    Here’s a Merlin photo that illustrates the eye and nostril features:

    I am the webmaster for the Merlin Falcon Foundation. You can learn more about Merlins at our site:

    We are currently working on an identification page to help people identify falcons and hawks. We hope to have it up within the next month.

  3. It’s not a merlin, it’s a sharp-shinned hawk. Falcons have chocolate brown eyes (even juveniles!), not yellow.

  4. Wow, I have been trying to identify the big bird that has been visiting my bird feeder for the last few weeks. I’ve gone from Peregrine to SSH to Merlin to Cooper’s to heaven knows what. But I think you have now made it clear that it is a SSH!! Great! I have an old, really old, Peterson Guide to the Birds book here that has a very incomplete life list, and I just can’t check anything until I know for sure. The bird book is from the 40’s or 50’s, when I was a youngster. Thanks for the info.

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