At the Scene of the Crime

We had just returned from the grocery store and noticed a murder (large group) of crows in the cottonwoods alongside the pond. They were really making quite a racket. I suspected there was something up. Lyn looked out the deck and saw something just off the path on the other side of the pond. I took out my binoculars and saw a very large and mature Cooper’s Hawk on the ground next to what appeared to be a dead male Ring-necked Duck. The Cooper’s Hawk, with striking russet-colored bars on her breast and bluish- gray wings, was disturbed by all the commotion. She decided to fly up into the nearby bushes and then out of sight. I wanted to verify that the duck was a male Ring-necked Duck so I approached within about 30 feet to get a better look with my binoculars. There was no doubt. The bill and plumage was unmistakable. So what really happened?

My nephew suggested that the Cooper’s Hawk was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He thought it unlikely that a Cooper’s Hawk would take down a duck. He thought it more likely that the duck was taken by an Eagle and dropped or simply died for some other reason and the hawk was simply picking up some carrion. If an Eagle had taken the duck it is possible that he simply dropped the duck when confronted with the large murder of crows (about 20 birds). But it was a very large Cooper’s Hawk! I think the hawk did it. Later that afternoon I returned to the spot where I saw the dead drake. The duck had been dragged about 6 feet. It appeared that the Cooper’s Hawk had returned to the scene of the crime for her lunch. It was an ugly sight. There was little left but head and feathers.

In my youth, I went fishing a few times, but I never went hunting. I couldn’t kill an animal without feeling like I did something wrong. But the hawk did what it was supposed to do. In the hawk’s view there was no crime. The next morning there was double the number of Ring-necked Ducks in the pond. Were they trying to make a statement of protest or did they already forget what happened? I haven’t. We humans are often not able to forget. It can be a blessing, but sometimes it’s a curse.

After two weeks, I returned to the “Scene of the Crime.”  Feathers were still scattered on the ground.

Ring-necked Duck Male

Ring-necked Duck Male

Ring-necked Duck female

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