Birds of prey will often spread their wings, fan their tails and hunch or arch their shoulders over a recent kill, particularly while feeding on the ground, particularly in open areas where there is less natural cover for concealment. This behavior, called mantling, is practiced in order to hide or conceal the prey from other predators who might attempt a bit of thievery. Also called covering or shrouding, mantling is observed most frequently in larger species that typically have lower hunt success rates and therefore are more protective of their kills.
During this bitter cold spell, which has enveloped our home in Big Valley (Modoc County CA) for over a month, Leonard and I are observing red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) eating carrion, a relatively unusual behavior that we rarely see. This picture shows a red-tailed hawk mantling some carrion in our pasture in order to protect its “find” from another red-tailed hawk.