Late yesterday afternoon, as dusk enveloped the Front Range, I noticed a sharp-shinned hawk in one of our pinyon pines. Struggling to balance his prey as he fed on its carcass, he finally lost grip and his meal fell to the ground. Dropping to tear off another morsel, he flew to a barren fruit tree and consumed that piece within minutes. While I thought he would return to the victim before darkness set in, he flew off in the twilight.
I, in turn, went out to inspect the scene and found that his victim was a Eurasian collared dove. Half eaten, I assumed that a fox would grab the leftovers during the night; after all, most of our local predators are opportunists and would not be averse to consuming fresh carrion. With winter beginning to intensify, easy pickings would be more than welcome and a bit of dove might be appealing on a frigid night.
As it turned out, the carcass went unnoticed by nocturnal predators and, at dawn, the sharp-shinned hawk had returned to his kill, feasting on the ground. Unlike humans, wild creatures do not waste any food; their survival depends on every calorie.