Circumstantial evidence points to our resident Barn Owls, who I thought only ate rodents. The feathers were found under the beam where they sit nightly in Johnny's shop. The absence of any but a couple down feathers makes me think it was not the Cooper's hawk who hunts birds here daily.
Keying out the feathers with the feather id guide online led me here: http://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/feather.php?Bird=RBSA_wing_adult We do have a (or did have) a resident Red-breasted Sapsucker. Perhaps it was too cold to find a proper place to hang out for the night and fell prey to a hungry Barn Owl.
I wait for the experts to weigh in on this sad story. Temperature overnight was 12 degrees F (warmer than the 2 degrees of the night before) and has not been above freezing (or even above 20) for days. We still have the four inches of snow that fell five days ago, except now it is mostly ice. Tough times for birds.
The word is in. Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak writes:
I have seen many instances of bird remains in Barn Owl pellets here in NE Oregon. They seem especially prone to eating birds when the rodent populations are low. As you said, it is tough out there for birds right now, including barn owls.
It can be especially hard on the owls, as well as hawks, if the snow takes on a hard crust.
A quick look at my feather references leads me to think you are right on with the ID of your Re-breasted. M. Cathy Nowak Certified Wildlife Biologist(r) Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area
The plot thickens... The above was posted before I dissected the most recent owl pellets near these feathers... and found 4 rodent skulls and bones, no birds. I think I accused the Barn Owl unjustly. True, they occasionally take birds, but the fact that only some of the wing feathers and no others were under the beam makes me suspect the Cooper's Hawk who hunts birds here daily. I am told that Coops and Sharpies often take a bird and pluck some flight feathers, then fly off to another perch to finish plucking and devour their meal. I suspect that is what happened to my unfortunate Red-breasted Sapsucker. This is what comes of jumping to conclusions without adequate proof.