Jerry Davis: Winter brings out the big birds

Jerry Davis: Winter brings out the big birds


Recent heavy snowfalls, with more to follow, coupled with subzero low temperatures, put active wildlife on alert for their next meal.

Some can cope including birds feeding on tree fruits and buds, but many struggle to get what they need below the snow.

Sighting birds of all sorts are easier to see, quicker to find, and make one wonder what an entire life of finding food, eating, seeking cover, and resting must be like.

Where permitted, this is an ideal time to attract large birds, particularly scavengers including hawks and eagles. These same birds can be located driving less-traveled roadways where animal carcasses are common from accidents with vehicles.

Coyotes, foxes, crows, opossums and raccoons also take advantage of deer/vehicle accidents, poaching and seasonal deaths.

While some animals are handy at finding snow-concealed body parts, they will all can benefit from us using a shovel or leaf blower to uncover these remains. And it works, too.

A pair, one mature and one younger, of Red-tailed hawks fought over a partially-eaten carcass. The older bird was less tolerant of someone opening a window in a dark basement, even though masked head to toe, and sliding a camera in that direction.

Inclement weather helps conceal the intrusion, too.

Redtails are persistent feeders, sometimes remaining for hours, pulling and tearing flesh. Bald eagles are usually more content to take a large piece and be one their way. Golden eagles, somewhat similar to immature bald birds, feed as bald eagles do, sometimes on the same body.

Eagles usually don’t feed after dark, but occasionally they do, as was learned with the Decorah, Iowa cameras near the perennial nests.

Full, or nearly so, moonlit nights make viewing other scavengers possible. Coyotes, opossums, and several foxes are opportunists, but usually rely on darkness to take the bait.

Freshness lasts but a few days. A rabbit or raccoon smacked while crossing a road is likely to disappear in several hours. Some animals including eagles, carry the meal away, or at least part of it.

An ideal setup is a dead animal, close to the road, with mature trees nearby so a large bird can perch, gage the situation before landing on the ground.

Snow for scavengers is like river or lake ice. The both limit the areas available to see and find food.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer from Barneveld, at or 608-924-1112.



Subscribe to our BadgerBeat email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News