Sunday, January 28, 2007

Nature, red in tooth and claw

WARNING: This is going to be a graphic post, with some blood and obvious bird death. You might want to skip it if you're squeamish.

I've said before that if a raptor were ever to attack birds in my yard, I'd like to be around to see it. Sadly, that happened this afternoon, and I was there for all but the initial attack (thank god for that tender mercy), and although the pictures aren't great (the sun was already just about down, on a cloudy day), it's pretty clear what happened.

I was in the kitchen cooking some cornbread when I happened to look out the window and see a very large bird at the back platform feeder. I thought it was a crow at first, but it looked different; I didn't even imagine it might be a UPDATE! it's a Cooper's hawk, not a red-tailed, per LauraHinNJ--thanks!--until I went out on the porch and saw him there, pecking at something in that characteristic grab-and-tear motion. I shuddered, grabbed the camera, and started shooting:


It was far too dark to digiscope; all those pictures were just blurs. This is on full digital zoom, 8.3X, on Night Landscape mode, with no flash, taken through the open window on my three-season porch.

When he finished and flew off, I went outside. I saw him doing a flyover--he's just a little blobby speck here against the dark snowclouds above:


Here are the photos I took of the (gulp) remains on the feeder:



This next photo is a little bloody--get ready, or just scroll down to the next one. I'll leave a little space:






My heart just broke when I saw that photo on the computer; outside, it was already so dark that I couldn't really tell what I was seeing. I didn't realize it was blood until I saw it on the computer screen.

I was surprised that I couldn't find so much as a beak or a foot; he ate everything but the feathers you see here. I looked on the ground but could find no trace other than a few more feathers. Most were gray, but there were also some brownish ones.


It could've been anything--a junco, a tufted titmouse, a sparrow.

I know that raptors are known for attacking birdfeeders, as they present the hawks with easy prey. And I know that hawk needed to eat; it's cold out there, and he needs food to create the energy that will warm him. It was just really hard to see it happening out there in my peaceful little yard.

18 comments:

LauraHinNJ said...

There's too much tail on that bird for it to be a red-tail. Probably a Cooper's Hawk - they'll stalk your feeder birds.

;-(

Grisly scene, but that's nature, right? Everybody's gotta eat.

I was lucky (?) to find just some scattered feathers beneath the feeders the other day - still makes me sad to see it.

Susan Gets Native said...

I found you through Laura's blog, and have also seen your comments on Birdchick.
That Coop looks like a juvenile to me. Sad as it is (and I work with raptors every day and I still get a lump in my throat when I see a wild one hunting in my yard), all that good bird protein will keep that hawk going for another day and make him or her big and strong.
I haven't been able to catch any action at the feeders, but I did get some good shots of a red-tailed eating mice in the backyard. Yum!

dguzman said...

poor little mousies! still--better than having them in my birdseed.

Larry said...

I've had Sharp-shinned and Coopers Hawks take birds from my feeders.I remember my wife looking at a sharpie pluck the feathers out of a bird one by one.-She said she was truly disturbed and disgusted as she stared at the whole scene through binoculars for about 10 minutes.-If they don't eat them at your feeder they'll eat them somewhere else.-cats killing birds bothers me though-Larry

dguzman said...

I agree completely with you on the cats--we keeps ours inside--I'd rather a raptor take a bird than starve. And cats should be kept and fed indoors.

Like your wife, I was disgusted, but I had to watch. Weird.

laura said...

We have feeders for the small songbirds and the pigeons and a few doves that show up. There are trees and bushes, but somehow a pair of hawks keeps attacking the birds. I know it's nature's way...but not in our yard! There has to be some way to scare them off!! We clang pot and lid and it does the job for a while, but we can't stand guard all day. We also have a very small dog...smaller than the pigeons and we are afraid to let him out in the yard by himself!!! Any suggestions??? :(

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