How would you like to find a large headless bird plopped in your driveway in a pool of fresh, red blood with scattered blood splatters leading to it? This was not a Halloween trick and my friend was mystified.
We inspected the evidence, a large plump body with short wings and strong feet reminiscent of a chicken’s, with feathers. The black and white breast feathers looked like an artist painstakingly painted each one; the dark tail was tipped with a complementary chestnut brown. This was a bird of the dim and shadowy forest, perfectly camouflaged for sitting on a spruce branch. All in all, a remarkably lovely bird despite the gruesome circumstances and pencil-sized hole under one wing.
Even without the head, I recognized the species and gender. Do you? Answer revealed at the end!
Noting that this forest bird was not a strong flier nor a migratory species, one way it ended up splat on her driveway could be that a raptor of some sort grabbed it in the nearby forested mountain slopes, its sharp talons piercing the body. After ripping off the head (ew!) the predator must have been disturbed, perhaps by another hungry bird, and flew off with the prize. Perhaps there was an aerial altercation and the hapless, headless bird was dropped just before the two antagonists hit her house.
Before they could compose themselves and grab the tasty meal, here comes the homeowner in her car, about to receive a shocking surprise.
While I know the prey, I don’t know the predator. I wonder if perhaps a NORTHERN GOSHAWK is in the ‘hood. They would be more likely to hunt down this forest bird than the often seen BALD EAGLES. I have not seen any goshawks, but am now on the alert, as it is very possible.
So, the answer to the riddle: it is a male SPRUCE GROUSE.
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter