Raptor Wednesday

The frightful squealing came from behind me as I walked down 34th Street from 5th Avenue. Turning around, I saw two birds flying my way. A larger, darker one was above a smaller, tan or russety one. The tandem went half way down the street and veered to the north, the captured bird still making that horrible noise. I managed to snap off a couple of photos after pulling my camera out of my bag. The sharp wings and the now dark grayish-looking larger bird combined to suggest Peregrine. What if…? I was heading in that direction anyway, so at 3rd Avenue I went out of the way to see if anything was happening on the Industry City smokestacks, two big brick chimneys that tower above the surroundings. The taller of the two has been the perch of a pair of Peregrines since late December. The shorter one now hosted a Peregrine plucking feathers from its prey. Some of the feathers came my way. The unfortunate prey was a Northern Flicker. The yellow-shaft is distinctive (on this coast; they’re red-shafted out West). I think that the falcon took the bird in Green-Wood, a great haunt of Flickers this time of year, and brought it back. Somewhere along the way, the falcon presumably bite the Flicker’s neck to kill it.

Flickers seem to be a favorite prey of raptors. Coming across a pile of the distinctive feathers is fairly common in the migration seasons, at least in relation to other kill sites. In fact, I saw a good-sized scattering of Flicker feathers the next day in Green-Wood, but was so distracted by a raven that I never got back to photograph them.

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