Female Phainopepla — Bringing Home The Groceries
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Phainopeplas are flycatchers, related to the Vermilion Flycatcher whose images I featured yesterday. Like other flycatchers Phainopeplas hunt from perches. One of these birds will launch itself from its perch, pursue a flying insect, swoop down on it, and seize it in mid-air. It takes unimaginable aerial maneuverability and razor sharp vision to accomplish this. Many of the insects that these birds pursue and capture are so small that they are virtually invisible to our eyes. The insects don’t necessarily fly in straight lines but Phainopeplas have acquired the flying skills to compensate for the insects’ erratic flight.
The other day I watched a female Phainopepla hunting insects. She launched herself over and over from a perch, dove and twisted in mid-air, and returned to her perch after she’d made a capture. After several minutes of this she paused as if to catch her breath and I made an image of her.
I was quite surprised when I looked closely at the photo. The Phainopepla’s mouth was stuffed with insects, dozens of them. She had held on to each insect that she caught rather than swallowing it.
I wondered for a second whether the Phainopepla’s style of eating was to swallow only after she’d acquired a mouthful of food. Then, it dawned on me. She was amassing food for her young. I had captured mom in the middle of grocery shopping.
Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, M setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/1250.