File Under: That Had To Hurt Comin' Out

I was sent this story about a California wildlife rehabber who found an injured hawk:

A hawk was found dead along a California highway with the claw of a songbird protruding from its chest.

It's not clear, however, if the partially digested meal, one claw somehow managing to get back out from a terribly wrong location, had anything to do with the hawk's death.

On the evening of Sunday, March 30, Julia Di Sieno of the Animal Rescue Team in California noticed the dead sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) while driving a sick night heron to the Solvang Veterinary Hospital. Sharp-shinned hawks are birds of prey and considered stellar hunters. They are the smallest hawks that reside in the United States and Canada.

"So I did a U-turn, put on my gloves and picked the bird up, and immediately rushed him to the vet where he died in my hands," Di Sieno told LiveScience. "Upon examination, we noticed that there was a small bird foot out of its chest."

A pouch in the hawk's chest area called the crop had ripped open and the songbird, which had been a meal for the hawk, was spilling out. You can see this in a larger version of the above photo here. There is also another angle of the hawk here.

"We removed a good portion of this bird [the songbird], which was partially digested," Di Sieno said by telephone yesterday. The hawk had apparently just finished downing what might have been a sparrow, she said. "He [the dead hawk] even still had down feathers and meat on his beak."

However, Di Sieno said she is not sure how the hawk died or what caused its crop to burst open.

I'm not sure what happened. It the larger versions of the photos, the head looks really flat and more like a Cooper's hawk than a sharp-shinned--but the photos are at odd and unnatural angles. Also, the leg looks like a blackbird leg. Either way, I don't think that the prey ripped it's way out. Sharp-shins and Cooper's typically do not swallow prey whole--they are smaller and they rip it apart. I doubt whatever bird it was would have had a chance to claw it's way out of the crop. My guess is that when the hawk was hit by a car, the impact or some part of the vehicle cause the very full crop to get ripped open. But we don't know for sure and it makes for some interesting conjecture.

Speaking of bird feet undigested...

I found some interesting excrement at Carpenter Nature Center yesterday! It looks like mammal poop and that the mammal had eaten a large bird. Do you see the long bird toes in the above photo?

This chunk had shafts from feathers in it. The bird wasn't white, but the shafts got bleached as they were worked through a digestive tract.

The toes were just fascinating. I'm guessing that they are pheasant toes, but turkey is a possibility--both can be found at Carpenter. While I was taking photos I could hear a pheasant giving its old rusty car horn call not too far away. Still there are many questions: What sort of mammal is this from? Red fox? Gray fox? Coyote? Was it a turkey or pheasant? And how much did it hurt to have those bird claws coming through the back door?