Posted by: atowhee | February 26, 2022


Reader suggests it may not have been a rat…quite possible it was pair of house mice, the other ubiquitous inavsive rodents hereabouts.–Updated February 27th.

Those of us who feed birds know well that we are inevitably inviting night visits–mostly from nocturnal mammals as owls eschew sunflower seeds and even suet. So we can expect–depending on our neighborhood and habitat–skunk, possum, raccoon, fox, coyote, fisher, ring-tail, rat and smaller rodents.
Here in southeast Salem we often see skunk or skunk cavities in the earth, and possum…and in the past few days a pair of young rats moved into our back garden. There are at least two active chicken flocks within ear-shot so the young may have been raised near one of those with the rich promise of nightly plunder. I have perceived zero owls in our vicinity so night prowling could be pretty safe.

I was pondering whether to try to live-trap them. We won’t use d-Con of the other widely found poisons because their killing continues long after that first generation of rats…like the feral cat who finds the rat corpse, or a crow or hawk or … Click here for summary of how bad d-Con and similar killers are for birds.

In the second picture you see the form of the rat in the left foot talons. Arrow to rat’s body, squiggly line parellels its dangling tail. Next the hawk briefly sat on the fence, cleverly hiding its prey on the far side of the fence, away from our prying eyes.

My wife was not looking through a small camera aperture as the hawk flew. She clearly saw the rat in talons as the Coop flew left (east). Soon he had cached the rat and flew back to the west empty-footed. Further south where Red-shouldered Hawks are more common they are superb rat-hunters, as are Barn Owls who hunt at night when rats are most active.

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Feb 26, 2022
19 species

Wild Turkey  X
Mourning Dove  X
Cooper’s Hawk  1     killed a rat in our back garden
Downy Woodpecker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  X
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
House Sparrow  2
Lesser Goldfinch  15
American Goldfinch  1
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  40
Golden-crowned Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     myrtle

A postscript: an event like today’s rat-kill reminds that nature is complex and many sided. It is easy to admire a boldly-colored sunset, a winter rainbow over the trees, the rumbling waters at Silver Falls, the sunshine on snow of any Cascade volcano in winter, the elegant prance of a pronghorn herd, the bugling of cranes in the heaven. But so many of us organisms must kill to live. Sure the algae, fungi, bacteria, plankton and other tiny workers create the organic matter the rest of us live on, but most multi-cell creatures must destroy to live. Even glorious, non-violent trees must have the rotted bodies of ancestors and neighbors in the soil to thrive. Nature brings with her competition, cruelty, blood and tears. One can surmise or ponder multiple laws of nature–one that is ignored only with death: get what you need to survive.


  1. That’s a pretty small rat; any idea of the species? Could it be a big mouse? I would think the body of this prey is about 3 in. long not including tail. I came to this judgement of length by scaling photo, and having experience with the width of Cooper hawk tail feathers. Just my two cents.

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