Signs of Spring: April 27, 1998
HAWKS ARE ON THE MOVE!
The Texas Coast is simply the best places on the continent to look for them, because both the hawks that migrate along the coast and those that cross the Gulf of Mexico can be seen here. Once they're reached the top of the Texas coast, they no longer have a single path of flight, so they fan out, and aren't seen in these huge numbers anywhere else. But some hawks do move in flocks, so even in the far north it's possible to find good numbers, especially of Broad-winged Hawks.
On Sunday, April 19, bazillions of hawks streamed up the coast, including Broad-winged Hawks and Mississippi Kites. During one 35 minute period, 3,179 Mississippi Kites were counted in Corpus Christi, Texas. The next day,
farther up the coast in Victoria, TX teacher Harlen Aschen wrote that his contacts in Corpus Christi "included a note for us to be on the lookout for the kites and broadwings AND, sure enough, this morning at 9:50 to 10:05 we saw 60 broadwing hawks and 12 Mississippi Kites over Victoria Christian School moving to the NNE ...Nice when they tell you the day before to look out for them," said Harlen. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Unlike tough little hummingbirds, most hawks are reluctant to fly over the Gulf of Mexico because it's just too dangerous for them. Fierce down-drafts could push them into the water. They don't have updrafts or thermals to hold them aloft, and would get tired of beating their wings for hundreds of miles. And if they do get hungry, there's nothing to eat over the water.
Insect and bird-hunting hawks are on the lookout
for food all along as they migrate, snatching lunches out of the air. Kestrels and kites snatch dragonflies and
other large insects with their talons, and then pull their feet up and their head down to eat them in two bites
without even lighting in a tree. Mousers and other mammal-hunters will drop down on a likely victim if they notice
one, or will simply stop in a promising spot when they get hungry to scrutinize the ground for food.
Discussion of Challenge Question # 5
Last week we asked you to consider this:
Most birds have a beak that is stiff and hard the whole length. As a special adaptation
for eating worms deep in the soil, woodcocks have a "prehensile" bill. Tiny ridges along the sides near
the tip allow them to bend and open the flexible tip while the rest of their mouth stays shut. The tip of their
beak is extraordinarily sensitive to touch, and also probably to smell, helping them to feel or smell out the worms.
They are so well adapted to this diet that they manage to find and eat more than their weight in worms every day--that's
almost half a pound of worms every single day!
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com