Red-tailed Hawk Mantling

Red-tailed Hawk Mantling

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.

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5 Responses to Mantling

  1. Pingback: Food Fight | The Nature Niche

  2. Pingback: Food Fight | The Nature Niche

  3. That doesn’t seem like a great strategy – you’re not really concealing your prey if everyone around you can conclude, “She’s mantling, that means he has prey!” But maybe mantling, by denying your opponent the information of how big the prey is, makes it less likely that he’ll fight you for it? Hmm. I’m going to have to read up on this.
    Neat picture!

    • gingkochris says:

      You are right, I believe, in thinking that mantling is not a particularly efficient means of hiding or protecting one’s kill. However, it must serve a purpose since many raptors possess this trait.

      • Ziggy Pohl says:

        It may not seem efficient to us, but it sure makes sense to them. Actually, our kids do the same thing in a way. You have seen them turn away from their sibling with a toy and proclaimed “that’s mine!!”

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