Death at the Feeder

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Yeah, real life ain’t no cartoon!

Have mentioned before that feeding and watching the birds around my house is something I enjoy a great deal. There is a dark side though. The cluster of birds at a feeder is fun for me to watch and it is an all you can eat buffet for certain predators that have learned the benefits of living near bird feeders.

An example of the unfortunate victim

I’m going to spare you most of the gory details but I’m used to going out to empty feeders. I’m not used to going out to find parts of a bird stuck in the feeder. In this case, only the wings were left behind. Still the color was enough to positively identify the victim.

We have two suspects. Both had means, motive and were observed near the scene of the crime.

The first suspect is a Cooper’s Hawk. We’ve had them around the house before but one showed up on Christmas day looking for his dinner. Don’t think he caught anything but he certainly made several attempts. Our suspect was observed soon after the crime diving down to our deck looking for a second victim. He missed but his intent was clear.

Who me??

Our second suspect is the Barred Owl. This suspect has been hanging out in a tree fairly far away from the bird feeder for many months now. Some days he finds another place to hang out but, on most days, he just sits in his branch waiting. We had assumed he hunted at night and were wondering what he found to eat. Perhaps we now know.

The second suspect was observed shortly after I dislodged the remaining bits of the victim from the feeder. He had left his post and flew up from the ground to a nearby tree branch while staring back at me. Later, he was observed on another branch much closer to the feeder as if the first meal wasn’t sufficient.

Since we didn’t observe the actual crime, I’m left with speculation. I know hawks tend to take off the feathers leaving a tell tale pile in the shape of the victim. Owls swallow stuff whole. Given the lack of other feathers, I lean towards the owl as the culprit. I’m also glad I was not watching the feeder earlier.

We have lots of starlings around. Nobody would have missed one of those. But they decided to take the cardinal with its cheery red feathers that adds color to what is typically a grey landscape.

I know that everything has to eat. Survival of the fittest and all. So I can’t be mad at either the owl or the hawk for being an owl or a hawk. I still like having the owl around. I just didn’t need for him (or her) to leave a present like that.

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