Dead duck - what happened?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by kodiakchicken, Apr 30, 2009.

  1. kodiakchicken

    kodiakchicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 18, 2008
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Hi all,

    Well, we had our first predator loss yesterday. Our magpie duck, Maggie, was killed and I need a little help figuring out what it could be.

    The birds (3 ducks, 11 chickens - all full grown) free range around our 1/2 acre property. My husband was home all day but in his shop with the forge going, so wouldn't have heard anything. I noticed a raven fly into one of my flower beds last night around 5pm and carry off something that I later figured out was Maggie's backbone. When I went to investigate the first thing I found, on the ground outside the raised flower bed, was feathers scattered everyone. Mostly downy feathers but some of the larger ones. They covered about a 3 foot radius and some of them were pulled out in big golf-ball sized tufts. There was absolutely no blood though. The only other thing I found with the feathers was the leathery shell of a not quite hardened egg, all the insides gone.

    Then, inside the flower bed, which is about 2 feet off the ground, I found her wings still attached to her breast bone. That was all. Obviously the spine was there before the raven took off with it. However, we searched the entire property and found no body, no head, no feet, no innards and no blood. Very strange.

    My first thought was a neighbor dog, although all the dogs have been around the birds for a year now and I figured if they had killed it they wouldn't have eaten it. Besides the fact, if any of the dogs had come home with a duck's body the neighbors would have been at our house trying to figure out what happened.

    We're on an island with very few predators so here are the remaining choices:

    weasel/ermine - I've never seen one in our yard before but I'm sure they are around. Unlikely that they'd come out in broad daylight though. None of the other birds were harmed though, which is unlike a weasels killing pattern.

    land otter - we have seen them in the yard before and have a small lake close by.

    kodiak brown bear - they aren't really awake yet and we would definitely have seen tracks.

    domestic cat - we're the only ones in the neighborhood with a cat and he's afraid of the birds. She also was 2 times his size.

    fox - have never seen one in our neighborhood. Probably wouldn't last long with all the dogs around.

    Bald eagle/hawk - this is my biggest suspect. There are several eagles that nest near our house and they have noticed the chickens before. This time of year the eagles are still in town and getting hungry, because the fish haven't arrived yet. I've also been told we have chicken hawks, although I've never seen them.

    Any ideas would be appreciated. We left everyone inside the coop today (except for two roosters that were driving everyone crazy) because we really don't know what it was or what precautions to take. I don't want to stop free ranging. The birds are so happy to be able to wander. If it's a land mammal I can fence. If it was a bird we're pretty much out of luck. Can't exactly shoot bald eagles and we've got thousands of them here.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Good grief.

    I have 4 free range year old hens. Have not lost one for a few months, but lost 16 of the original flock. I saw a fox get two of them on two different occasions, but really don't know what the rest were lost to. Found feathers a couple of times and part of the carcass (wings) only once. The losses stopped around the time we added two more dogs -- none of the 4 bother the chickens but two of them are excellent mouse/rat killers. Just part of free ranging, I'm afraid. They sure do love their freedom -- and they eat almost no feed as they find their own bugs and weeds. And give me 3-4 eggs/day.
  3. NewHopePoultry

    NewHopePoultry Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 9, 2007
    Sounds like a bird of some kind
  4. TheBoonducks

    TheBoonducks Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 16, 2008
    Do you have coons or skunks? Both like eggs and will eat them out of the birds. They will try to take the body if there is enough time. There may not have been blood because it wasnt torn apart completely? We raise Anconas, very similar breed. I am very sorry for your loss.
  5. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

    Feb 11, 2008
    Waterloo, Nebraska
    Don't assume that a dog would eat the bird or take the body home. They usually just shake it around and/or rip it up and then leave the mess. It could have been killed by the dog and then scavenged by the other wildlife.

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