Warning: Graphic Images of Bird Devouring Mouse
Perched atop the corner tree in the hotel parking lot, this White-tailed Kite made short work of a mouse it had caught moments earlier. The bird had had an exhausting morning. It spent at least an hour up in the sky in a three-way aerial combat as a member of a three-kite team battling one Red-tailed Hawk and six American Crows. The kites try to drive away the hawk, probably because the hawk competes with them for small mammal prey. The crows try to drive away both the kites and the hawk, not over competition for food, but simply for command and control of the territory. The aerial combat looked to be a battle of intimidation rather than contact. There were numerous close passes but I did not see any feathers fly. It must have been tiring for all involved, and made them hungry.
Mice and voles are a mainstay of the raptor diet. As Peter Rauch pointed out in a comment on the original version of this post, judging by the length of the tail, this prey is probably a house mouse (Mus musculus) — might even be a young rat — but in any case not a vole. Very likely, this mouse lived in the vicinity of the hotel and had some relation to the numerous possible food sources in the hotel complex. For every mouse that falls victim to a raptor, there will soon be a replacement. Females reach sexual maturity at six weeks of age and can have five to ten litters averaging six to eight pups per year. Do the math: that’s 30 to 80 pups a year. Voles, which are common in fields all over the park, can outdo that; they are able to birth 100 pups annually.