Thursday, 20 August 2009

Gamekeeping 101 - How to Spot a Fox Kill

Both the birds in this picture are typical of a fox kill. Use these tips for identification:

1.) Missing its head (image on left)
- A fox commonly bites the head completely off a bird to dispatch it, before going on to kill the next bird.
- If the fox had begun to eat the carcase, the feathers will be chewed off (i.e. quills will be partial and have rough ends) not plucked, and the feathers will be stuck together with saliva.

n.b. Sparrowhawks will also take the head off a bird but there will be a pile of plucked out breast feathers, with quill still intact, around the carcass and, strangely, you will usually find the lower mandible left.

2) In this peculiar position (image on right)
- The fox grabs a bird by the middle of its back and crushes the ribs - you can feel this when you handle the carcase. Often feathers in that area will be missing or sticky with saliva.
- When the fox crunches down he causes huge internal damage: the injury seems to cause the bird's head to drop back and arch, as in the photo. The head position is a primary indicator.

n.b. A dog may also kill a bird this way.


Sara said...
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Sara said...

I love how your blog is not only funny and fascinating...but now it's educational, too! I can now recognize fox and dog poult kills, thank you. You never know when that may be handy! I'm a bit surprised by your ill-preparedness that night, though. I thought you were a Girl Scout whose credo it is to "Never leave home without extra ammo." (Ha ha.)

Jennifer Montero said...

I gotta post the embarrassing mistakes too. When I read other peoples' books & blogs and find out they screw up, it gives me courage to have a go at screwing it up myself!! There's not enough space to write down ALL the stupid little things I do everyday. But I've learned my lesson about the ammo :-)

Susan said...

I always thought finding a dead bird missing it's head was the work of an owl

Jennifer Montero said...

Susuan - You're right. A missing head can be a fox or an owl.

If it's an owl, it will be missing the head AND there will be a biggish hole under one wing where it's held on with talons.

A fox kill is missing the head AND if you squeeze the carcass around the ribs it will feel "crunchy" where the fox crushed it. Often it also smells musky, as foxes sometimes pee on their kills, especially if it's been a killing spree. I don't know if this is to mark them, or excitement or why.