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so I found this songbird laying on a vine maple roughly 2-3 feet off the ground along a trailside within the forest (under the canopy). the body of the bird is completely intact and it's only missing it's head.

any guesses as to who could have done this? i've narrowed it down to roughly 4 different species but I'm not entirely sure myself which one it is. thanks to steve for giving some guidance on this.

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Wow, interesting find!  I would definitely lean towards an avian predator in this case.  The fact that the head is missing and the body is otherwise intact is interesting.  Possible species responsible could be :

- Cooper's Hawk

- Sharp-shinned Hawk

- Northern Pygmy Owl

- Great Horned Owl

Given how little of this carcass is consumed makes me think perhaps this was a small predator that was disturbed during its meal.  Also, this could have been left as a food item to feed fledglings. 

A few weeks ago in AZ, I witnessed a similar thing happen with a large lizard and a Cooper's Hawk.  The hawk, which was a male bird, would bring food items about 1 every 20 minutes or so.  He would perch in the same willow, call to his young and fly in closer and give them the food item.  The first item I saw him bring was a large spiny lizard, which he fed on briefly and mostly ate from the head (brain and muscles).  The second and 3rd item were both birds.

About this time 2 years ago I found a freshly killed Douglas squirrel hanging over a branch.  I suspect it was also an item that was being delivered as food to hungry fledglings and then abandoned for some unknown reason.


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