July 26, 2015 – Ritter Road, Grant County, Oregon
The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) is the lead subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake.
When Terry comes bursting in the door before I have finished my first cup of coffee saying “Kay, you have to come out here, something has these birds stirred up!” you know it is going to be an interesting day. Several Cassin’s finches had been trying to come to their watering dish on the ground, but abruptly flared up and away before landing there. I had one word for Terry, “Snake!”
We quietly approached the birds’ watering dish at the base of the ponderosa pine tree. From twenty feet away, Terry saw a beautiful fresh-shed, green-hued Northern Pacific Rattlesnake along side the dish. It took a closer look to realize it had in the grips of its jaws a juvenile Cassin’s finch, already dead from the snake’s venom. The next 15-20 minutes was an amazing show of how this snake consumes its prey. This photo story pretty much tells the story, with just a few notes to detail the process.
To swallow the finch, the snake used its fangs and teeth to walk the bird’s body back into its throat.After moving the prey into the neck region, the snake put a crook in its body and seemed to press the prey down towards its tail area by moving the crook towards the rear. Finally, it went through several stretching motions to realign its jaws into their normal position. Both of us were on cameras from different positions to capture all this.
We relocated the snake for a final couple of poses before Terry removed it from near our house and released it unharmed. Warning: Although this snake had a nice set of rattles, it never once rattled a warning!