This morning the Cooper’s hawk was in the yard. I didn’t see it or hear it, but like any visitor it left behind evidence.
Apparently, this Cooper’s hawk is molting. A variety of feathers were loosely scattered about. Fluffy underdown here, a flight feather there. This wasn’t the explosion of feathers left behind when a Cooper’s hawk plucks a mourning dove it has caught, but instead random feathers in our yard, one on the sidewalk out front and another down the block.
Feathers wear, get damaged and breakdown. Most birds will loose and replace all of their feathers annually either in sections or all at once (called a catastrophic molt, when a bird looses too many feathers at one time to be able to fly). Just as many mammals shed their heavy winter fur, it is natural for birds to molt their feathers.
Many living things pass through a habitat. In this case the Cooper’s hawks come for water and food. Often you may not see these visitors directly, but if you look for evidence you may realize that the biodiversity in your yard is greater than you think.