Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just Birds

They were just a couple of birds I noticed hanging around my back patio about three springs ago. Just two of many hundreds of them out there - mostly diamond doves, sparrows and tons of pigeons. I didn't even notice them at first, they blended into the background so well. What I did pick up on first was their short, high-pitched song, just a simple, unobtrusive "peep" kind of noise. Eventually I connected the sound with the birds and began to see them more and more.

They were a mated pair and they looked exactly alike, almost like twins. They also looked very much like cardinals, except instead of bright red they were a medium brown color, with short bills and a little bit of black coloring on their faces. I haven't figured out exactly their specific kind - someone suggested they might be a bird called Pyrrhuloxia, but I looked them up on Wikipedia and they don't look exactly like the picture. They seemed to live mostly in the olive tree in the back corner of my yard, but I did see them every so often flying into the trees on the elementary school property over the back alley from my yard.

As time went on they became frequent visitors to my back yard and patio. I have a habit of feeding the wild birds in my yard. I can't help it - if any animal shows up in my yard and they appear hungry I have to feed them, and believe it or not I go through about one hundred pounds of bird seed a month. All the birds in my yard have learned quickly that there is bird seed to be had on the back patio and most of them - especially the pigeons - have become quite fearless and brazen in regards to their regular feeding. In fact the second I come outside they start flying down from the telephone wires to perches closer to the patio, and if I start to open the plastic bird food bag they swarm onto the patio, running up to a couple feet away from me. I put the seed on the ground and the crush is on - I've had literally a hundred pigeons, and other birds, happily gobbling down the bird seed I supply for them. Since the pigeons are crazed hogs and push the smaller birds out of the way in their frenzy to gorge themselves on as much seed as quickly as possible, I put a second, smaller pile of seed down on one corner of my porch. That way, the sparrows, doves, and my two visitor birds can have a chance to get some food too.

Eventually my two brown birds got quite used to eating on the patio and every time I came outside, they would swoop in from the olive tree and make their "peep-peep" noise until I fed them - and I would feed them each and every time, I could not resist. Through the spring, summer, fall and winter, they would always be out there, always as a pair. Every spring they would make a nest in the olive tree and have a pair of babies, who would timidly hide in the potato bush near the patio while their parents ate the seed. I got so used to seeing the two little brown birds, and would always look for them when I was out on my patio.

So, when I found the dead, mangled body of one of the two brown birds in the back of my yard yesterday morning, my heart sank to my feet. I could not believe how sad and upset I was. I picked up the lifeless body, still warm, and noticed the feathers torn away from its neck and the three puncture wounds on its front, most likely from a cat. My neighbor's four cats have appropriated my property as their own, and while I love them a lot and they are basically nice cats, they still are cats and are driven by instinct. They saw an opportunity to be a hunter and one of them took it. I find it hard to get angry with them, since they are just being cats, but they are fat, sassy and well-fed and did not need to kill anything for food. It did look like just a blood killing, done for no other reason than it could be done.

I have not seen the other adult bird since that time. My yard is strangely, eerily quiet without their little "peep" calls to each other. I know they are just birds, two of hundreds out in my yard, but to me they were so much more. They were little sparks of life that I could count on seeing every time I went onto the back patio. They were just birds, but I miss them.

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