Thursday, May 24, 2012

I was dive-bombed by a single red-winged blackbird, while overhead a hawk was attacked by an entire angry posse.

Jewels of the Wetlands
Red-winged blackbirds are beautiful. They're nature's jewels of the wetlands, bright little specks of accent colors scattered through the cattails of the marsh, a benign peaceful sight that brighten any walk in their habitat.

Not quite as peaceful these days, however. This is the time of year that red-winged blackbirds become wildly protective of their fledglings in their nests. Either singly or in noisy aerial posses, they'll attack anything that seems to be a threat.

Ferocious Dive Bombers of the MarshWe were walking in the Wingra Marsh this morning when, without warning, one of these creatures pecked at the top of my head and did a quick little victory dance in my hair with its claws. Or so it felt.

But don't worry about me -- save your sympathy for the hawk that was attacked a moment later by an entire angry flock. They would circle around and attack from behind, over and over. Unlike crows I've watched attacking hawks in a similar ritual, they didn't content themselves with displays of mob behavior and hair-raising close encounters. The blackbirds swooped right in and pecked at the head and shoulders of the hawk, zooming in from above and behind, giving a quick peck before peeling off to circle around again. They were so small and quick and maneuverable the hawk could do nothing and was in full retreat.

Moments before, a couple dozen red-wings whirled and chattered around one clump of cattails. They must have been organizing their posse. It's tough being a predator, knowing it's only a matter of time until the vigilantes get organized and a whole angry squadron of fighters comes flying up out of the marsh to get on your tail.


Leslie F. Miller said...

Little birds are fierce protectors. The catbirds, having just nested in our Douglas fir, are starting to get antsy when we come outside.

JamJam said...

I was dive-bombed along the Hwy 12 bike path last year...twice. I was riding my bike and had a red-winged blackbird attempt to latch onto my helmet. An hour later I was headed back home in the opposite direction and was thinking to myself, "hey, this was right about the same spot the bird attacked..." Boom, the bird got me again.

Madison Guy said...

Leslie, they really are fierce, aren't they? JamJam, sounds as if you discovered another good reason to wear a bike helmet -- red-winged blackbird protection.

Janis Nussbaum Senungetuk said...

I had an encounter with one yesterday afternoon at Olbrich Gardens. Makes me think I have a target painted on the back of my head. I got the message and left.

Madison Guy said...

Janis, at least Olbrich Gardens has warning signs. Little terrorists, aren't they? (Though just defending their young as best they can.)