Sunday, November 20, 2011

Avian CSI

WARNING: This post includes some graphic photos that some may find disturbing. Viewers beware! 

Migration has slowed down quite a bit, but that doesn't stop Nick and me from going out and enjoying the slightly cooler weather to go birding. Just yesterday we went out in the late morning to a nice little area called the Wellington Environmental Preserve. This is a fairly new area that opened to the public last year, and we haven't had great numbers of birds here, but we have gotten nice variety and some good ducks that we don't find in most of our other birding hot spots.

Female Belted Kingfisher

It was a fairly slow day. We had previously seen lots of limpkins here as there is an abundance of apple snails. You can tell by all of the empty shells that will line the banks and even along the boardwalk bridges. But we had only seen 1 or 2 limpkins this time. Some of the other highlights from this trip were a number of American Kestrels, about 20 Lesser Scaups, and a juvenile Bald Eagle. We also had some nice views of a female Belted Kingfisher.

Female Belted Kingfisher

On our way out, Nick and I decided to go off the path a little to try to find Savannah Sparrows that we thought we had heard on our way in but were unable to locate. We didn't find them, but instead, we found a whole wing laying in the grass. We'll see feathers lying about all the time, but never a whole wing! It was perfectly intact. You could see where the bone had been cleanly snapped off. By the looks of the size and the color of the wing, we determined that it must have been a limpkin. 

Limpkin Wing

So that made us think, hmmm, where is the rest of it? We looked a little bit more in the grass, and about 5 feet away we found the rest of the remains. There wasn't a body, but there was the other wing, 2 legs, a bill, and more feathers. We were able to confirm that it was indeed a limpkin, especially because of the bill. Again, viewers beware, but it looks like there was also the bird's throat. (Eww, gross, I know!) 

Limpkin Crime Scene 2

Other Limpkin Wing

And then a few more feet from this evidence of a kill is what we determined to be the "plucking station," where the predator must have cleaned off the little feathers of the poor limpkin. We determined that it must have been a large bird of prey like a Peregrine Falcon that could have taken this large water bird down and cleaned it so well -- the limbs and bill snapped off so neatly like breaking small twigs off of a larger branch. 
Close Ups of Limpkin Bits

Another View of the Limpkin extremities

The "Plucking Station"

There was definitely a mix of emotions -- pity for this poor limpkin, a bit of disgust, but also intriguing wonderment of this evidence left behind of predator versus prey in the avian world.

And to make you feel better, below are some pictures of a viceroy butterfly also taken during our birding adventure. =)

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterly


  1. Like you, I often see feathers. But I can't say I have ever encountered this much of a prey animal remaining. Do you suppose the predator was scared off by something in the middle of its meal?

  2. Hi Ingrid. Well, the body was gone, so the predator must have taken it elsewhere after getting rid of the odd bits. There was no blood anywhere other than on the tip of the broken bone on the wing. It's possible, though, that the predator did get spooked after breaking off the appendages as the area was right next to a path open to visitors.

  3. Jeez, this was a surprise... I hope the bird died quickly before it became a meal. I have never seen anything like this before, with all the odd bits laying about. Very clean and calculated move on the predator's part as to its favorite portion. Thank you for the palate cleanser at the end. Great pics, as always.