[CT Birds] Peregrine: Cuckoo for cuckoos
ghanisek at rep-am.com
Fri Oct 7 16:23:05 EDT 2011
Peregrine Falcons periodically use the clock tower at my work, the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury, as a perch and place for dismembering prey. Colleagues who work in other departments occasionally draw my attention to avian bodies or body parts below the tower (which is visible from I-84).
Earlier this week I was escorted down to an especially ambitious bit of carnage - a decapitated Blue Jay, a Yellow-shafterd Flicker with its throat gouged; a pretty much intact Scarlet Tanager; and the head and tail of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which had clearly been dead a bit longer than the other three.
Up until now the most interesting find over the years had been several American Woodcock heads, which always caught the eye of non-birders as especially bizarre. I think the woodcocks were trumped about 15 minutes ago, when I was led down to see the fresh remains of two more Yellow-billed Cuckoos - a severed head and whole bird with some of its entrails eaten.
I'm sure it will strike most of you as odd, as it did me, that a Peregrine could come up with three of a pretty scarce and shy species in such short order. I wonder if the woodcocks suggest an answer. They most likely were gottern in the gloaming - dawn or dusk, if not later at night (ask Frank Gallo about a Peregrine catching moths in a floodlight). It seems to me a cuckoo, a nocturnal migrant, would be much easier for a Peregrine to snatch out of the air than to find in the thick cover they usually haunt during day. In the air, in fact, cuckoos don't seem to be especially fast or maneuverable. They certainly aren't a bird you see out flying around in the open, but they're out there under cover of darkness (or near darkness) during migration.
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