Feather tales

I’ve been a lawbreaker. You probably have too. Every little kid who ever picked up a gull feather at the beach, every hiker with a blue jay plume in his hat — criminals all. With very few exceptions, it’s against the law to possess wild bird feathers. I knew that strictly it’s illegal to keep feathers but I hadn’t realized how stringent the law really is. Technically even game bird feathers can’t be picked up. You can only have them if you get them from a hunter!

That law was running through my mind when I found these feathers at Vischer Ferry in the fall. There seemed to be the full set of primaries and secondaries from the left wing of a large bird, possibly a raptor. So instead of bringing them home I photographed them in place, then checked a reference when I got home.  The Feather Atlas is a comprehensive archive of North American bird plumage. After some searching I decided they belonged to a Barred Owl. But how did a whole wing-worth of feathers get pulled out?

There were only torn-out feathers on the ground, no sign of blood or body parts. I wonder if the owl dropped onto its prey, and in a moment of distraction was caught by the wing by a fox or coyote who pulled out a mouthful of feathers, then carried off the bird.

A tuft of downy body feathers under my feeders tells another story, one of feral barn cats and of the danger of accepting a handout. These look like Common Redpoll to me.

I’ve seen a few Redpolls with swollen eyes and puffed-out plumage. I hope it was one of those sick ones the cat got. I’m considering renting a yappy and energetic terrier to scare the cats back to the barn.

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Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Why? | Tags: , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Feather tales

  1. oh oh… I’m going to jail… hey, free room and board? lots of unscheduled time?

    Love the redesigned page! nice!

    • Apparently a lot of crafters have gotten in trouble with the whole “stick a bird on it” fad — nests are off limits too! Ack, my entire mantle is illegal!

  2. mbquilts needs a sunnier location and vacation ;-).

    I didn’t know this~! I only knew about not taking *wildflowers* out of parks…

    As a four-year-old, I must have broken this law a good forty times!

  3. Pingback: Consciousness Raising: Not just a buzzword from the 60′s – Daily Prompt: Morality Play | Babsje Heron

  4. Hi there. Very nicely written post. I hope you don’t mind that I linked to it today, here: http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/consciousness-raising-not-just-a-buzzword-from-the-60s-daily-prompt-morality-play/ Best, Babsje

    • Thanks for boosting the signal!

      I’m enjoying your blog and wonderful pictures. We have a heron visiting our pond regularly — only one at a time, and I don’t know where their rookery is.

      • You’re welcome, and apologies for the late reply to this one. (I just now discovered the little “notifications” feature in WordPress, newbie that I apparently still am.) Heron rookeries are sometimes 2+ miles from their feeding grounds. Have you ever tried using a satellite view (with google earth or another similar)? That has worked for me, and in one case the image showed herons in a tree. Remarkable!

  5. Pingback: Years Ago, Before I Knew it was Illegal… | Babsje Heron

  6. Edited today to fix The Feather Atlas link.

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