Sometimes I find small masses of feathers in my yard. It looks as if a bird has exploded, leaving nothing behind but its feathers.
I've usually blamed cats. It makes sense the pets and resident ferals might want a little fresh meat. I'm not happy about it, and I make sure the cats stay well fed. I hope full tummies make it less likely that they will hunt and kill birds.
Today, I found that I was probably mistaken about what causes the leftover feather piles.
I had stepped outside to feed the two feral/stray cats, and I noticed something odd in the street. It was a bird, about the size of a crow, but most definitely not a crow. It was one of the smaller raptors that I see sometimes, but I've never seen one closely enough to identify it. I usually see them backlit against the sky, streaking across at a speed that makes it impossible for me to identify them.
It was quite busy ripping into something, so I was able to step back into the house and yell for Keith to get out of bed immediately and look out the window. I went for the camera.
He was able to see it, but when I went back to the door, the bird had turned my way. Great. I knew my camera wasn't strong enough to get a picture through the screen door from as far away as I was, so I decided to take a chance and go outside. It let me get out the door, then it took off with something dangling from its talons.
I went to my trusty Roger Tory Peterson bird identification book and found that I'd seen a peregrine falcon. Then I checked the range map for it. After looking at that, I checked the copywrite of my book. 1980. Bird populations have changed a lot since 1980. I think it's time to order a new bird id book.
After that, I just had to go outside and see what it had been eating. There in the road was what looked like a feather explosion. Now I know I can no longer blame the cats for them, and I have evidence that the raptors do circle around our house, checking out who is visiting the bird feeders. It's been an interesting morning.