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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Avian snow angels

<ast week, a crow in the middle of Bell Field caught my eye as it was picking around at something in the snow. Naturally, I tromped all the way over and found the exciting marks of a crime scene: an avian snow angel. In the snow I found the outstretched grooves where a bird’s primary feathers had imprinted on impact—then, a few slighter feather-tip drags sweeping the snow as the raptor took off with prey in talon. Looking closely, the faint outlines of tail feathers were visible where the bird might have braced itself in the snow as it plunged for its prey.

After looking around at the imprint I noticed that there were not any little animal prints leading up to the strike zone. This suggested that an Arb owl was involved! Hawks use keen eyesight to hunt small rodents, so impact prints from hawks are usually paired with tracks from prey. Owls, on the other hand, in addition to having keen eyesight, hunt with unparalleled precision based on sound. The Arb’s resident barred owls have astounding hearing, allowing them to triangulate a rodent’s position up to two feet below the surface of snow!

Another clue to keep an eye out for are feathers or bits of fur for identifying the prey. If there had been feathers around the print, the evidence would point towards a hawk taking down a bird instead. Since most birds are out during the day, (except for owls), the daylight predator, aka the hawk, would have been the primary suspect.

When exploring the Arb in winter, the snow captures animal stories like this one that are exciting and informative. Whether you are snowshoeing around or cross-country skiing, keep an eye out for tiny mice prints, squirrels prints darting from tree to tree, animal remains, or even the otter slides written about last week!

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