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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Animal tracking whodunnit

Two codgers walking a dog encounter the scene above at 2:15 in the afternoon.  

Obviously, something killed Chicken Little, but there is no predator to be seen.

The codger's dog sniffs the carcass briefly but otherwise ignores the scene. 

The carcass is cold, the tail has been plucked, and the head has been pulled off.

The neck has been eaten, as well as the wings where they attach to the pectoral muscles.

The head is uneaten. 


1) What species is Chicken Little?

2) What species killed Chicken Little?

3) Why didn't the predator take Chicken Little when it left the scene?


Erik said...

I don't know about chicken little, but was it a raptor that ate him/her?

reverend dick said...

Well, the picture IS labelled Varied Thrush...

I'd guess it was another bird that ate him, based on the dog's lack of interest.

john said...

It's hard to guess the bird species because the photo does not really indicate size. I doubt that it's a Varied Thrush because the color is wrong. My guess is Band-tailed Pigeon. Almost undoubtedly, the predator is an owl, Great-horned most likely.

Seagull Steve said...

The thrush has an orange belly...pigeon would have shorter legs and lack those white wing markings. Im not sure what it is though.

John Carlson said...

Looks like maybe a sharp-shinned hawk? I am thinking the predator was avian because the carcass was not taken - it was too heavy. I am going to guess a larger accipiter - Coopers or Gos?

randomtruth said...

Hmmm. Seagull Steve is the master, but that blue-gray color and those bright orange legs make me thing band-tailed as well.

Anonymous said...



Camera Trap Codger said...

Okay, I don't have all the answers, but I know the bird was a varied thrush. The predator had also plucked away the emblem on the breast. At first I thought it was a water ouzel, because of the gray feathers, and because they are quite common on the flumes here. But then I found the head and the orange feathers.

I have to agree that it was likely an accipiter. We have all three here, and it was probably too heavy to haul, as John noted. I could have answered the id question definitively, had I had a camera trap with me.

Never forget your camera trap.

Thanks, troops.

gazehound said...

eAgramiGreat Horned owl is my bet too. One just killed one of my chickens. Returned to the scene next night and walked into one of my live traps. I released him(or her. Can't tell which) unharmed if a little bit pissed off!!

JK said...

I always thought the lower belly all the way down to the pelvis on the varied thrush was also really orange. Guess not.

Seagull Steve said...

JK is correct. Varied Thrush does not have just an orange patch, but an entirely orange and white belly. They also have pink feet. I can't see how this could be a thrush...do you have a picture of the head Codger?

Luisa said...

I'm the worst birder of everyone here, but the Varied Thrush ID works for me as long as I tell myself I'm looking at the bird's back, and not its belly.

I think it looks too small to be a Band-tailed Pigeon. I've picked up [what was left of] a Band-tail after a Cooper's Hawk kill, and that carcass was good-sized.

The Feather Atlas [as I said, I'm the worst birder here] offers this, which seems to match.

randomtruth said...

W/o a single orange feather in the scene, I can't see how it could be a varied thrush either. Seems too big to me as well, since there is a size reference for us to use - the bigleaf maple leaf. Acer macrophyllum leaves are easily 6-8 inches across. That's no small bird.

Camera Trap Codger said...

There were orange feathers, and the head had orange feathers too, though it was a bit chewed up. The yellowish legs go with varied thrush too. I see in Sibley that there should be more orange feathers on the breast, and lower down on the belly too. No positive about the id, but that's the closest I can come to it, though it is not convincing.

owlman said...

I checked the feathers of a Varied Thrush in "Bird Feathers" A
Guide to North American Species, by S.David Scott and Casey McFarland and it is definitely a Varied Thrush. See page 277