Thursday, February 11, 2010

Liver for Breakfast?

Our part in this little saga began 24 hours ago, early yesterday morning when Dog #2 brought a frozen lump of something to the door. Upon examination, it was discovered to be the remains of a pigeon, headless and bloody but largely intact. I quickly put it out of dog-reach, intending to return it, only to discover within a half-hour that its owner had already been back to look for it. I wasn’t quick enough.

The Husband is convinced that Cooper’s Hawks aren’t carrion-eaters, but we now have satisfactory, albeit anecdotal, evidence otherwise. A disappointed Cooper’s Hawk stood on the discrete pile of feathers on bloody snow that marked his kill site from the day before. I ran to fetch his prize. Our resident friend watched me from a nearby tree, well, like a hawk while I replaced his frozen instant breakfast back where he’d left it Tuesday afternoon, exactly where he clearly expected it to be.

[Warning: Moderately graphic images below. How bad can it be? I'm pretty squeamish myself.]

But he didn’t return to it. Instead the presence of our smaller flocks let me know ‘Coop’ had left the area. Came the Magpies, observing the corpse from a distance, but not approaching. Perhaps some residual avian threat lingering with the carcass kept them at bay. When I left for the day, a couple hours later, it was still untouched.

By late afternoon when I returned, the scene had changed. I first suspected the Magpies had overcome their hesitation, but something about the site suggested otherwise. The pigeon was reduced to a fist-sized red lump, consisting of a pair of feet, a dark red chunk of organ meat I took to be liver, and perhaps a piece of backbone. The feathers were now spread over a larger area, thoroughly but methodically dispersed. To me, the method suggested it wasn’t the Magpies who returned to finish this meal.

This morning I again stepped out without checking, only to see Coop flush from the carcass. Seems I have to learn to look first, so I don’t startle our guests. It no longer mattered; nothing edible remains.

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