I was hiking a segment of the Prescott Circle Trail by Willow Lake earlier this week and witnessed an American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, dive bombing a red-tailed hawk! Kestrels weigh in at 117 grams, whereas red-tailed hawks weight about 1,080 grams. Talk about a mismatch! It would be akin to a Cessna harassing a B52 bomber. The kestrel was persistent, but the red-tail just kind of shrugged off the harassment.

While at Willow Lake I ran across a Cassin’s kingbird. This find really surprised me! I would say this bird is probably four weeks off schedule for migrating south. Kingbirds are in the flycatcher family, and their diet consists primarily of flying insects. With the freezing temperatures we have had lately, most of our insect-eating birds have already left.

That same day, there was also a blue grosbeak and a yellow-headed blackbird at Willow Lake. These stragglers are typically gone long before late October. I guess it just goes to show that birds don’t look at calendars!

One of the more common stragglers each fall is our Anna’s hummingbirds. Hummingbird numbers drop off considerably in September, but it is not uncommon to have lingering hummingbirds through the month of October. 

One of the most frequent questions we answer here at the Bird Barn this time of year is the age old question, “When should I take down my hummingbird feeders?” There isn’t a hard fast answer to this question—only a general recommendation. Historically, I take my last hummingbird feeder down at Halloween. I figure by November it is safe to bring in my last feeder.

That is not to say you shouldn’t leave a feeder out longer—even all winter in some cases. Like I said, there are no-hard fast rules. Bird behavior is variable, and certainly not all hummingbirds migrate. Each winter we get scattered reports from customers with hummingbirds wintering over.

This raises the question—if you leave a feeder out, are you encouraging hummingbirds to stay? My gut feeling is no, as the urge to migrate is instinctive. However, I do believe we are seeing a shift in bird species that are normally found at lower elevations showing up with greater frequency at higher elevations.

We are also seeing the trend of migrating birds arriving earlier in the spring and leaving later in the fall. Is it climate change? Is it the human activity of bird feeding? Is it something that we haven’t yet settled on? There is still so much we are learning about bird behavior. One thing we do know—bird behavior is dynamic and not static.

While some of our summer birds are late in leaving, I have noticed this past week several flocks of western bluebirds and cedar waxwings in the Prescott area. Thus, our fall birds are certainly showing up as one would expect.

This evening is the Prescott Audubon Society’s monthly membership meeting at 7 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church at 630 Park Avenue. The speaker will be Sonia Perillo, the Executive Director for Audubon Arizona. She will be presenting a program titled, “Where Birds Thrive, People Prosper: News and Updates from Audubon Arizona.” The event is free, refreshments will be served following the presentation, and the public is invited.

This Saturday is our 15th anniversary celebration. We will be providing a free lunch, and we will be announcing the winners of this year’s wild bird photo contest. Arizona Raptor Experience will be present with a variety of birds of prey for your enjoyment. We hope you will join us between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday for our anniversary event. 

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.