Field of Science

Tree rat predators in evidence

Presently a fluffy-tailed tree rat sometimes called a squirrel is sitting about 4' from me cleaning out a small bird feeder affixed to the kitchen window.  The feeder was purchased to amuse the kitty-girls, but the tree rats found it before the birds.  No matter one of the kitty-girls is amused greatly by being nose to nose.  Another tree-rat is cleaning up some field corn kernels under a nearby tree.  Both of them bear superficial injuries with a distinctly talon-like pattern.  The scars on one have healed leaving some longish scars with whitish fur running nearly perpendicular to the back bone.  The nearest one has some fairly deep gouges, healing but still pretty raw looking. Both are evidence of near misses by the neighborhood's resident to predator, red-tailed hawks.  Generally these are country birds, but a pair has been nesting atop stadium lights of a nearby baseball field. At least one offspring has been seen, so perhaps these hawks are becoming a bit more urban adapted. A pest control guy reported that the density of small mammals was several times greater in the city than in the country, which is a maize and soybean desert, so prey may be plentiful. If two of our dozen resident tree-rats bear evidence of predation, TPP wonders how many are missing.  Unfortunately we have no apparent shortage so far.  Here birdy, birdy, nice juicy well-fed tree rats.
Every now and then a Cooper's hawk, usually a juvenile, has been seen having a go at tree-rats or young bunnies, but even though fairly common in our immediate area, they are song bird specialists adept at making cardinals disappear in a poof of feathers using a power dive from the crown of an oak.

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