Avian CSI (What killed my bird ?)

One of my cockatiels got eaten early Mon. morning. I am a bit baffled by what could have done it, and wondered what people might suspect the most likely perpetrator.

I had 2 'tiels in a cage. The cage was outside, in a breezeway at the side of my house. The breezeway is fenced with a fence that has bars 6 inches wide. The cage was on a table 3 feet high, and the cage was covered with an old cloth car cover, and a canvas tarpaulin. The bars of the cage the bird was in are about 1 in. wide.

I heard some noise from another bird that was also covered by the cloths and went out to investigate. The remaining cockatiel was alive and relatively unhurt; just some damage to the wing that I think was caused by flapping in fright. In one corner of the cage there were a bunch of down feathers stuck to the bars of the cage. There was no blood on the bars of the cage. One of the bars near these feathers was noticeably bent, but I measured it and it was just a few mm. There were more down feathers on the floor of the cage. The cage was still latched. There was no gore anywhere; on the floor of the cage, or on the bars of the cage, but the bird was gone .

There were some long tail feathers on the cement floor of the breezeway in two different spots, but again, no blood or gore.

Now the minimum of the maximum widths (depending on orientation) for this bird had to be several inches. I don’t see how it would be possible to pull the poor guy through the cage without leaving all kinds of gore around the exit area. This seems to indicate it was eaten inside the cage. However, what could get in? And assuming it gets in, how does it get out? And why no damage to the other bird?

The feathers leading away from the cage would indicate to me that they fell off as the bird was being taken away in the mouth of something, say a cat or racoon. But how did the perp. get the bird out?

I live in urban Southern California, so the idea of a snake seems pretty far-fetched. A racoon might have the dexterity to unlatch the cage, but while it was underneath covers? Latch it back up? Leave one bird alone?

Just a WAG, but:

It might have been a weasel. They’re stealthy, good at squeezing through small holes, and probably strong enough to yank the dead bird out through the bars. They’ll sometimes kill more than they can eat, but sometimes not.

Yeah I’d go for weasel/polecat/stoat/ferret/pine marten - (whichever of these is more likely in your locality)

Another vote for weasel, specifically Long-tailed Weasel. Weasels are well known for being able to enter any space they can get their head into.

As a person who had two cockatiels* for several years, let me just say :eek: and I’m sorry you lost your bird. It’s bad enough when they die of natural causes, but that must have been a shocking discovery.

And may I say that while reading this thread it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from our remaining cockatiel, Oliver,** yet today, so I whistled at him and he chirped back.

*Lucy died last summer. Poor Oliver! He’s all alone now.
**One of our outdoor cats sneaked in a few years ago and spent the night terrorizing the birds, who were out of our earshot. Poor Oliver thrashed so much that he broke off all his long feathers and had to live in an aquarium until they grew back enough that he had sufficient balance for perching. :frowning:

Remember the bars on the cage are 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) apart. I can’t imagine the largest part of a Weasel in any axsis being less than 3 cm across.

Plus I leave near San Bernardino, CA. I think a Weasel might be just as rare as a tree boa.

This image of a Long-tailed Weasel skull indicates a width of about 2 cm, or slightly more than 3/4 inch.

It seems a bit unlikely to me too, but Long-tailed Weasels do occur in southern California, even if they are not well known as urban animals. (I don’t think Short-tailed or Least Weasels are found there.) Given the circumstances you describe, a weasel seems to me to be the best bet.

A Black Rat (Rattus rattus) or possibly a Norway Rat (R. norvegicus) is also a possibility; Black Rats are a bit smaller than Norways.