Saturday, November 7, 2009

Half a Mockingbird . . .

Moe found the bottom half of a mockingbird's body in the grass today, with yellow jackets feeding on it in the sun. By the time I saw it, the sun was low in the west, and just one yellow jacket crawled in and out of the carcass. That it was a mockingbird was distinguishable only by its tail and gray fluffed back feathers. White stiff legs protruded akimbo from soft yellowish underbelly feathers. No head, shoulders, or wings. The beak part of the head lay a few inches away, with what looked like eyeballs and messy flesh still attached. I'm more squeamish than I like to admit and couldn't look long. We'll never know the whole story, but a black and white neighborhood cat was stalking the yard earlier today.

I've never thought of yellow jackets as scavengers. Remembering the one that tore the flesh of a dead worm several weeks ago, I looked up their habits. Workers, generally the infertile females, forage on decaying flesh of insects and fresh carrion to feed the larvae in the nest. The larvae, in turn, produce the sugars the workers need.

I'll be curious to see how long the mockingbird remains remain in the grass. A few yellow jackets can't do away with the carcass in total, but will get what they need. I'm guessing some nocturnal predator will finish the job before morning. I'll let you know what I find tomorrow. dkm

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