I came home this morning from running an errand and
a quick check of the Monongahela River in Morgantown.
Only 1 Ring-billed Gull at the dam, floating downstream
below the dam. About an hour later after my errand, I
was at Barill Park in Star City, where I found, surprise,
1 Ring-billed Gull floating downstream, plus another
flying around. The distance and timing make it entirely
possible that it was the same bird seen earlier at the
dam. At one point it rose up to fly, but only got about
3 feet and a few wingflaps up in the air before settling
back down on the water. Perhaps it has a wing injury?
Also present across the river from Barill Park was a
Great Blue Heron, plus the usual Mallards.
So I finally returned home just before 11:30 am. Looking
out the window past my feeders, I noticed some movement
on the ground at the edge of the lawn at the base of the
small hemlock trees that border it. This is not even 100
feet away from the house. (I had seen an 8-point buck
from our resident herd there earlier in the morning.)
I got my bins on it, and was surprised to see the local
adult Cooper's Hawk ripping into something that was
in the dead leaves just out of my sight. I think it may
have just caught it, because a half-hour later it was
still ripping into it. Then apparently sated it lay down
in the leaves, looking like some kind of funky chicken
or grouse, while it was apparently digesting its food.
After a half-hour or so, it stood up and proceeded to
a second helping of whatever it had caught, again
ripping away for about half an hour. I could see small
bits of something fly as it plucked its victim, but still
could not see what it was due to the dead leaves.
Then it did its funky chicken act again. Then it fed
some more. More funky chicken. More feeding. By
this time I was only watching occasionally while doing
other things. Finally, about 3:30 pm, or about 4 hours
after I first saw it, I saw it had left.
I went out to where the bird had been to see what its
prey had been. Not a bone to be found, not a piece
of meat--just a couple of pieces of what may have
been internal organs. And lots of brown-tipped gray
fur about an inch long! So I have one less squirrel
to worry about.
We think of Cooper's Hawks as eating small birds
almost exclusively, but they will catch small mammals
such as squirrels, chipmunks, and mice as well,
according to Kenn Kaufman's "Lives of North American
A very interesting episode, to say the least.