Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back to the Mystery Carcasses

Photo by Brett Odom
You'll recall that Brett Odom not only looked out his office window and instead of seeing Charlotte or Pale Male Junior on their previous nest site, he began seeing a pair of Peregrine Falcons. Then before long this carcass appeared on a neighboring window ledge.

And we all began to wonder just what was that up there?

Photo by Brett Odom
Then before many days had passed, Brett looked out again and there were two of whatever it was. But at least now we could look at two different angles of the mystery species. I was very interested in the tail view of the left carcass which showed a fan of white scalloped feathers on the end of the tail.

In the meantime, I had sent the photo off to the wildlife rehabilitating Horvaths for their take.

Bobby Horvath sent back this email--

Hi Donna, Possibly a woodcock? They are showing up now or some other long beaked shore type or plover type bird visiting Central Park. Glad its not any of the city's hawks for now.

Ah ha! I started flipping the pages of the field guide. The Woodcock and the Snipe, a bog wading bird, both have that white scalloped edge to their tails.

In the meantime, Brett Odom had also been busy.

Photo by Brett Odom
Look what Brett has circled? Is that a beak? Both he and Bobby take it to be one.

I'd been so busy looking at tail feathers that I'd not taken that to be a beak necessarily. Wasn't it too broad? But then I gave it very close scrutiny. The tip has two curves! It is a poorly defined slightly open beak thus of course it looks "too broad".

They're absolutely right, that's a beak.

Take another look at the first photo, the single carcass. We'd been taking the white "stubs" as the sort of very top of the legs. But then I kept wondering what that skinny long bit was that appeared to be sticking out of the right bottom of the bird.

Then when the second carcass arrived with it's visible scalloped tail and it's very skinny legs, I said, "Hmmm".

Maybe those white stubs aren't the tops of legs at all but rather portions of the stubby tail? And that skinny bit is a skinny leg. Which means the bird is lying differently than we'd thought.

In the duo photo, look at the skinny bits. You can now see two skinny parts coming out of the original carcass. Yes, two legs, and one seemingly without a foot?

That makes the white stubs conceivably the stubby tail with the dark brown band above the white scalloped tail feathers-- that of a Woodcock.

Bobby nailed it!

As Bobby pointed out, the Woodcock are coming through at the moment. And Woodcock are one of the species of birds which tends sometimes to have a very hard time with NYC windows. I've been in one of the vet's offices on the Westside, with Silver, when people arrived one after the other with dead or injured woodcocks. An entire flock flew into the windows of a building nearby.

It is conceivable, that these two birds, the carcasses, may have already been dead or badly injured and were picked up by the Peregrines and cached as extras . That would help explain the lack of loose feathers on the ledge.

Does anyone know if Peregrines eat at their close cache? Or do they take the food somewhere else to eat?

American Woodcock, Scolopax minor

Photograph courtesy of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

Donegal Donna Browne

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