Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Miniature Feeding Frenzy

I've seen a feeding frenzy on the ocean, but this is an Illinois oak woods. On the ocean, big fish attack the school of little fish from the bottom, and birds attack from above. Now I'm watching a parallel on the edge of the oak woods that adjoins my back yard.

For a fifteen or twenty minutes, a horde of warblers and gnatcatchers darted after bugs in one small area (a few feet in all dimensions), from every oak-flower, branch and leaf. Some insect was hatching there. Suddenly a humming bird was in the thick of this frenzy. The hummer darted – back and forth, up and down, a foot or two in each dart, multiple darts per second – apparently catching small insects that the warblers had found and were stirring up [photo by Lisa Culp]. The hummer acrobatics lasted for over a minute, which is time enough for the hummer to catch dozens of tiny flying prey.

The marauding horde of warbler species this morning included:

Chestnut-sided warbler
Wilson’s warbler
Blue-winged warbler
Mourning warbler
Magnolia warbler
Nashville warbler

Gnatcatchers, warblers and a hummingbird. Little sharks of the treetops.

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