Posted by: atowhee | June 15, 2019



There is no clear way to determine ownership of the air.  Possession or passage en route can often be nearly the same as ownership.  Surely profit-mongering corporations want the air to be free, so they can dump their chemicals and discharge without charge—legal or financial.  Airplanes use the air like fish use water.  Clouds, weather, wind, storms—the air is their current and currency.  When we come to zoology it gets even more complex.  All plants and animals depend on the oxygen and CO2 in the air; many also need the nitrogen.  Without it there could be no proteins…and it is inconceivable that earth would have much life without proteins, certainly no creatures that can move of their own volition.

In the avian world ownership of the air takes many forms, mostly ephemeral, none uncontested.  Sometimes it is breeding territory at issue.  Sometimes it is competitive hunting, maybe not even for the same potential prey. Like kestrel angry at red-tail. This season it can often seem to be simply testosterone poisoning–Brewer’s Blackbird versus the mail person walking down the sidewalk, or junco attacking an image in the car mirror.

The most possessive of small territories are the American kingbirds. Ferocious, they defend any nesting site against all other flyers they perceive as dangerous. Hence “tyrant flycatchers”.  Raptors can be found contesting air space, especially during breeding season. Usually the smaller after the larger as size decreases the aerobatic flexibility of the bird. Long-billed Curlews will chase away harriers and over hunters found near their ground nests. Swallows will also, sometimes in tight groups. Then there are our western American icterids, especially Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds.  They will attack larger birds from kestrel up to cranes.  Cranes are assaulted as they stroll along but the attacks all come from above. Not often is there actual physical harm.  But when harassing a Golden Eagle no other creature wants to get within talon reach.  That would likely prove fatal.

During our Malheur Field Station birding trip last week we found aerial combat all around us.  There was even some evidence that the Common Nighthawks were warning us off with zoom-bys and vocal threats.

Eastern Kingbird, frequent aggressor.  At Malheur found along Blitzen River mostly.EAKI-CPR2 (2)FERRUGINOUS NEST AND NETTLESOME NEIGHBORS
Here is nest north of Wright’s Point, west of Hwy 205; at least two youngster could be seen from the highway.

ferru nest-no2 (2)
Here is nest between Wright’s Point and The Narrows along 205.  We counted four young.  The mother was nearly always at the nest, and the presumed father was on a roadside utility pole, then flew pursed by Brewer’s Blackbirds, those nasty neighbors.

ferru fly-a (2)


  1. Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.

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