Bird parts found on campus

By Judah Taylor | @KyKernel

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Not all birds are created equal. Some birds living on UK’s campus prey on other birds, while those others are left praying for their lives.

Shredded remains of birds have been found littered around campus, startling students.

It’s “gross” and “alarming,” said Abbey Lauffer, a pre-pharmacy sophomore. “I’ve seen a lot of dead birds around campus lately.”

Cooper’s Hawks are hunting down other birds like starlings, morning doves and rock doves, or pigeons, and littering campus with their half eaten prey’s body.

“They’re like little jet fighters,” said John Cox, professor of conservation and wildlife biology. Cooper’s Hawks hunt smaller birds by chasing them down and grabbing them with their talons.

“It’s like air to air combat,” when they’re chasing other birds, he said. “They’re flying and maneuvering after these other birds at high speeds.”

Living in Kentucky year round, Cooper’s Hawks are one of the few animals that have adapted to an urban environment on their own, Cox said.

“They’ve basically figured out that this is a buffet of really dumb and well-fed birds that they can prey on,” he said.

The buildings give them plenty of cover and perching spots that allow them to spot prey at hundreds of yards, often by surprise at high speeds.

“They are really good hunters,” Cox said. “And they have to be, to be able to catch fast, small and mobile prey.”

Once a Cooper’s Hawk has a bird in its clutches, it usually holds the bird away from their body and squeeze hard with razor sharp talons that either suffocate or stab the other bird to death.

They have even been observed holding their prey underwater to drown it before eating it, according to a recent study at Cornell University.

Generally a bird will take its food to a place where it feels comfortable and safe before eating, for an emboldened urban hawk that could mean sitting on a bird feeder in someone’s backyard, on top of a building or even on the ground.

After eating, a Cooper’s Hawk will discard what’s left of the carcass by just chucking it, which is why some carcasses are found around campus.

Coming into contact with these bird carcasses around campus or anywhere else is not something that students should be concerned about, according to Tom Barnes, a UK wildlife ecologist and Kentucky State Wildlife Extension Specialist.

“You can just ignore them,” Barnes said. “Although they more than likely aren’t carrying any major diseases that can effect humans … I still wouldn’t suggest touching them.”