The hatch was on. The attack was on. The black-headed grosbeak was on.
Songbirds of the most surprising species and variety indulged in a feeding frenzy along our driveway this morning, July 17, 2020. The most surprising of all was the black-headed grosbeak “flycatcher.”
My involvement began at dawn when I saw a Bullock’s oriole feed one of four fledglings in a choke cherry tree just off the deck. I noticed black-headed grosbeaks flitting from limbs like flycatchers hawking insects. Grosbeaks are built for seed eating, so you don’t expect them to behave like flycatchers. So, hoping the birds were sufficiently preoccupied with a feeding frenzy that they’d allow close approach, I traded my morning coffee for a Canon 70D and 100-400 IS lens and slipped off the deck to see what was going on.
It proved to be into the most intense fledgling feeding frenzies I’ve ever seen. The center ring was commanded by those fly-catching black-headed grosbeaks.
Several species were snapping flying insects from the sky while others gleaned them from the gravel driveway. The only legitimate flycatchers in the frenzy were several western kingbirds. Other birds included: American robin, gray catbird, cedar waxwing, yellow warbler, black-headed grosbeak, Lazuli bunting, spotted towhee, Bullock’s oriole, pine siskin, and an unidentified sparrow.
I was too busy trying to catch birds in flight to concentrate on identifications. Most birds were feeding fledglings, and many fledglings were hunting successfully on their own.
Among this menagerie the grosbeaks were doing the most insect hawking, launching from perches to snatch bugs from the sky. Yellow warblers did the same. Orioles too. Towhees, robins, and buntings seemed to glean most from the ground. Photos explain the rest.
Most surprising to me were the grosbeaks. Well known seed eaters with large, short beaks, they hardly look equipped to catch flying insects. Yet they proved active, consistent, and successful, both mature birds and juveniles. I concentrated the camera on a mature male in striking plumage.