Birds and breakfast

by Yule Heibel on July 16, 2005

Sitting at breakfast just now, bickering over this and that, we hear an explosion of rowdy raucous crow voices, see the flurries of black wings, and notice the cry of a large seagull as it skims close to our house, between large elms, power lines, fences and hedges, the noise of a car or two competing with the birds. Crows are in pursuit. The gull flies off, the crows congregate. They’re very loud.

Was there a “plunk” or a “plop”? Did I hear something sharper, behind the birds’ voices? Where did the body come from? There, a couple of metres from our house, in the neglected southwest corner of the yard, facing the arterial road, close to the old, soot-encrusted yew hedge, suddenly, a body.

By now the crows are going crazy. Punching their way through the overhanging tree branches that keep the cleansing rains from ever washing the dirt of cars off the hedge, they’re fighting over the body of a juvenile gull, supine on dormant grass and fallen leaves.

Can I finish my toast, drink my coffee? Where’s the switch to shut this off? But after a while, it’s clear this won’t go away. I make my way outside, armed with two plastic grocery bags and two rubber gloves, a left and a right. The bird is surprisingly young, and small — I’m not even sure it is a gull, it’s so exquisitely beautiful. Definitely a seabird, webbed feet, a gullish beak in the making, but such variegation in the feathers! It’s so small, compared to a mature seagull. Its body is still warm, the blood trickles from its neck, and when I push the outspread wings close to its chest, it seems the softest thing I’ve ever touched. Every feather feels like down; there’s nothing yet seasoned or exposed about this bird. I expect it to breathe, but it doesn’t. My body is directly over it as I compose its shape into a semblance of elegant compactness, my back is exposed to the trees, the crows are getting louder. I expect them to swarm me, but they do nothing, just talk.

After the body is in the bags, I give it to my husband to dispose of. As I wash the blood off my rubber gloved hands, I call to the crows, “Don’t ever do that again!” But I doubt they listened. Within minutes, they were gone.


Doug Alder July 16, 2005 at 5:40 pm

No doubt that’s why a flock of crows is called a “murder”

Yule Heibel July 16, 2005 at 9:31 pm

No kidding, Doug.

I like crows as individuals, and get a kick out of the juveniles, whose heads seem too large for their bodies. I even like them in pairs or threes, and sometimes count one of two verses (“One for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a wedding, four for a birth, and five for all good things on earth,” or: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a wedding, and four for a boy”), but jeez, when they show up as a murder, they really are murder.

Sort of like people, they are. Ok on an individual basis, but in a gang (or army), not to be borne.

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