Murder Most Fowl

Christmas Day brought a mixture of joy and sorrow, as Petra, one of our oldest ducks, died. She lost an eye during a midnight raccoon raid when she was young, and ever since has been one of our favorite ducks. She was the most steady, calm mother and kept a consistent place of honor in the flock.  As many creatures do, she appeared perfectly healthy as she left the house in the morning, but at the top of Duckville Lane she just stopped walking. And living. We’ll miss her.

Then, yesterday afternoon, we lost another duck—Henrietta, one of the Triplets of Belleville. She was several years old, but certainly not ready to drop from old age. This time there was a scene of carnage on the side porch, and we spent several hours guessing what might have happened to her. We checked for clues: any trail? tracks? telltale pinfeathers on the cats’ whiskers?

Well the cats were cleared early on; they didn’t even show the slightest interest in the deceased. Besides, the cats have learned to respect the ducks and share space happily with them, though they do maintain a careful distance. Little Cluck was accused of being an accessory after the fact, perhaps taking advantage of an available carcass, which chickens do enjoy.

But once Bill checked out the crime scene photos and my description of the three-toed footprints that appeared at the top of the porch steps, he declared a bird of prey—probably Goshawk or large Red-tailed—to be the murderer. Apparently they have an MO that is a dead giveaway. So to speak.

Bill also cleared Little Cluck, saying that though chickens can pluck exposed meat from bones, they couldn’t do all the tedious work of feather-plucking that hawks do so well.

I suppose the only good news is that hawks don’t fool around; they make a kill quickly and do the rest of their work afterward. I’m always grateful to know this. Makes me empathetic to a hungry mother trying to keep up her energy and feed her young.

On the other hand, I hope this particular bird was just migrating through. I’d hate to see our back yard on the hawkish five star restaurant list.

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