On Saturday morning I was exploring the newly-mowed Edgemere Landfill, one of my favorite birding spots in Queens, enjoying birds like Eastern Meadowlarks and American Pipits, both of which seemed to appreciate two years of brush being removed. There were Northern Harriers hunting low over what portions are as of yet unmowed, Cooper’s Hawks using some of the berms as cover for sneak attacks, and American Kestrel feasting on cold grasshoppers. But what really caught my eye as I drove on the gravel road over the top of the capped landfill was a young Red-tailed Hawk feasting on what looked like a dead Gray Squirrel.

Red-tailed Hawk eating

It must be immensely frustrating to have food stuck on your beak when you lack hands to get it off.

The red-tail was really going to town on the carcass, which I am relatively certain wasn’t killed by the hawk but by one of the tractors that were used to mow the landfill. Later in the morning I came across an Opossum that had been sliced nearly in half by the mower and I imagine that it wasn’t the only casualty of the poorly planned mowing. (They do the entire landfill every-other-year instead of doing half each year. Why? I don’t know.)

Regardless of how the mammal ended up dead it was pretty fascinating to watch the hawk devour it from close by in my car, using my scope to view and digiscope the action. I took hundreds of pictures but have chosen these few to share. Careful! Some of these shots get pretty gory. If you haven’t had breakfast yourself yet you might want to look at something cute and come back later.

Still here? Well, on to the carnage!

Red-tailed Hawk eating squirrel

When you have no knife or fork it is acceptable to use your talons to hold your meal in place while you rip off chunks.

Red-tailed Hawk eating 5

Don’t like getting hair, guts, or sticks in your eye? Then use that nictating membrane. As a bonus, if what you’re eating isn’t already dead it will probably die of fright when it sees you with creepy membrane-eyes.

Red-tailed Hawk

Always remember to pause during your meal to keep an eye out for potential meat-thieves. Other hawks are the worst!

Red-tailed Hawk eating

Finally, take small bites. It would be pretty sad if you choked on your hard-earned (or found) meal.

If you liked this series of pictures you’ll love seeing a Bald Eagle eating a Blue-winged Teal, a Cooper’s Hawk eating a Canada Goose, or a Common Buzzard eating shish-kebob.

If you liked this post and want to see more images of birds make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.