A Puddle of Feathers

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Feb 2, 2009 | by Adrian Binns
While out walking this morning I came across a puddle of feathers (right) laying near a large pine tree in someone’s front yard. A pile of off white breast feathers mixed with long outer tail feathers with large white tips identified the victim as a Mourning Dove, a rather common suburban species. The perpetrator was more than likely one of the two Cooper’s Hawks (below) that have been terrorizing the neighborhood this winter and birds make up a very large percentage of their diet. This is a species that has become increasingly common in the last decade. Cooper’s Hawks are raptors and belong to the genus Accipiter, along with the smaller look-a-like Sharp-shinned Hawk and the large bulky and uncommon Goshawk.

There is probably some truth to the fact that there are more backyard feeders than ever before and with that one could logically assume that a proportionate number of predators would follow. Are we to blame because we put out a smorgasbord of seed and other assorted food for birds? This in turn certainly attracts predators, but does it actually make it easier for them to catch prey?

We are obsessed with development and everywhere we look there seems to be new construction – roads, housing developments and commercial complexes – it is never ending. Where I do see a problem is that we are striping habitat often in the form of native vegetation, just so we can start with a clean construction palette. And if that was not bad enough we then replace it with only a small percentage of the original vegetated mass, and as is often the case, this turns out to be exotic vegetation that may not even have any wildlife benefit! So back to our predator and prey….. if there is little or no cover for the birds that we attract to our yards to dive into at the slightest sign of danger, then we are not doing all that we can to protect them from accipiters and other potential dangers.
all photos © adrian binns

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