Tag Archives: Birds

‘Dagger-faced goons’ murder and eat victim in broad daylight

Williamsburg, Virginia

“A gruesome scene this morning has left a leafy neighborhood in Williamsburg, Virginia, in shock after a newly emerged cicada was murdered, dismembered and eaten in broad daylight.

According to eyewitness accounts, a female Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) pulled the victim off the trunk of a tree, threw it on the ground and stabbed it repeatedly with its needle-like bill. Once the victim was dead, another wren, a male, helped the alleged killer ripped the victim to pieces and began eating it. Later, a female cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Virginia’s state bird with eyes set on savagery, joined in to help devour the victim.

“It was brutal, just brutal” said a grasshopper who witnessed the attack. “The poor guy emerged right under the bird feeder. That’s just bad luck. That’s like a gazelle being born in a lion’s den.” After pausing to look over his shoulder, the grasshopper said, “But better him than me.”

We were able to obtain an exclusive interview and confession with the alleged killer, who was taking a dirt bath under a bush. “I was going to eat bird seed from the feeder. Then I saw [the cicada] on the tree. It was the size of my head! So much meat. And delicious. Now I don’t have to spend the rest of the day foraging for insects and seeds. I can focus, instead, on removing mites from my feathers.”

Asked if she had any regrets, she said, “Only that after all my work to kill the cicada, that cardinal bullied her way in. But she only got part of the thorax and the wings. I don’t like the wings anyway. Too stringy.”  

The murder happened in the front yard of a Williamsburg resident who saw it happen outside his window. “I saw the wren pecking the ground, then saw the cicada try to fly away. She grabbed it and flipped it on its back. It was gruesome. I didn’t watch the whole thing because I didn’t want to overcook my eggs. That would have ruined my day.”

The victim was a periodical cicada (Magicicada sp.). These insects remain underground as pale grubs for 13 or 17 years then emerge from the ground as winged-adults to find a mate. They are sometimes called “17-year locusts”, which is a misnomer. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to shield bugs and assassin bugs.

The grasshopper who witnessed the murder gave perspective on the victim’s life cycle, “Nothing like waiting 17 years in an underground bunker only to be killed and eaten by dagger-faced goons when you come out.”

 

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P.S. This makes my 100th post. Thank you for following! Don’t forget to tell your friends and neighbors. But not the creepy neighbors.

 

 

 

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Struck

25 July 2013
Falmouth, Massachusetts

I was enjoying the view of the water when I hit her with my car.  A small flock of brown-headed cowbirds swooped across my windshield then banked right.  Just as the last bird banked my windshield smashed into her.

Damn.  My first bird.

The windshield didn’t deflect her.  She wedged under my wiper, where the hood meets the windshield.  Her winged fluttered in the 30 mile an hour wind, softly beating on my windshield.

Fall offJust fall off . But she didn’t fall off.  I pulled over and pick her up.  Her wing was awkwardly bent, but she breathed.  What do I do?  Put her on the ground?  Put her out of her misery with the heel of my shoe?

I put her in my lap and drove to the grocery store.  She lay on my wet swimshorts, breathing with closed eyes.  I hoped she would die to end her pain and to assuage my shame.  It was an accident.

When I went over a parking lot speed bump she chirped and stood up.  Maybe she was okay.  I’d seen a hummingbird slam into a window and then get up ten minutes later like nothing happened.  I put her on the passenger seat.  She stood there breathing with her eyelids falling like a sleepy kid trying to prove he’s not sleepy.

 I went in the store.  I left the car on with the AC going and the Beach Boys playing.  She was still on the seat when I got back.  I ate my store-bought soup as we listened to “Wouldn’t it be nice”. 

Brown-headed cowbird listening to the Beach Boys
The deceased before she was the deceased listening to the Beach Boys


How many birds glance off windshields and roll into the street, not quite dead, and soon die from the heat or the cold or the ants that start with the soft spots of the bird first?  To die alone seems a tragedy.  I was now responsible for her last bit of living.  I wrapped her in a dirty tee-shirt.  We drove around listening to the Beach Boys until she breathed no more.

 “That’s a brown-headed cowbird.  That’s a good one to kill.”  My birder friend didn’t share the same tragedy I felt.  I thought birders had a special unconditional love for all birds.  He proved otherwise as he casually flung her by her feet onto a compost pile.  “They’re brood parasites.”

Out of evolutionary efficiency, brown-headed cowbirds never make nests.  A female lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species.  Unaware of what has happened, the ‘host’ mother raises the ‘parasite’ brood as her own, leaving the female brown-headed cowbird to lay more eggs in other nests.  The most famous brood parasite are certain species of cuckoos.

 To fans of warblers, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, and any of the other 140 host species that are duped into raising someone else’s kids, brown-headed cowbirds are inglorious dastards beyond scruples.  But are their morals less than those of parents who use any means necessary to provide for their offspring?  Evolution has made them efficient brooders, but at the cost of a kinship with their young.

 …ahem.  now i’m stuck.  i don’t know how to end this essay.  i don’t have a clever existential ending about fleeting life, parenthood and beach boys.  i hit a bird.  i felt bad.  the bird died.  i learned it was a clever bird hated by some who love birds.  i am still struck by the bird’s clever ways.  

Useful site: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brown-headed_cowbird/lifehistory