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Rare visitor becomes prey

Raptors, such as this Great Horned Owl, tend to display a pose known as “mantling” once prey is seized. It’s a way for them to cover or conceal their meal from potential rivals. 1 / 2
The Brown Thrasher that was frequenting the bird feeders at a West Fargo residence was dispatched by this adult Great Horned Owl, December 19.2 / 2

As lucky as we were to be able to tally a Brown Thrasher during the recent Fargo-Moorhead Christmas Bird Count held Dec. 14 (see Flightlines, Dec. 25), ultimately the bird wasn’t as well-off. West Fargoan Jim Rauch wrote, “Unfortunately the Brown Thrasher met its demise on Dec. 19 at dusk. My wife was looking out the kitchen window when she saw an owl take the bird out of the feeder.”

Such occurrences are actually fairly common—even in urban areas—but still tend to surprise observers. Usually seen are daytime raptors such as Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, or Merlins. Once darkness descends the business of hunting gets handed off to their nocturnal cousins. In Rauch’s yard, it happened to be a stunning adult Great Horned Owl.