Tuesday, May 27, 2014

AVIAN RAGE – Nose to Beak With Killer Robins

The way Nature has hard wired all living things to survive and reproduce never ceases to amaze me.

The other day, while working on the deck, I heard a scream from just outside the back door of our neighbor’s house. I called her, but she didn’t pick up. So I walked over and, not seeing her, rang the doorbell.

Just then I heard a robin chirping—not in its usual lilting spring voice, but in an excited, scolding tone. I turned around and, before I could even get my hands up, the bird flew right at my face and drove its beak into my forehead. Then its mate swooped in and barely missed me.

PHOTO: David Wildeman

Besides a rush of adrenaline, the first thing that went through my mind was, Aha! So this is why our neighbor was screaming. I’d forgotten about the nest. The robins built it on top of the utility box just two feet from her door. And we’d been keeping an eye on the blue eggs and then little heads inside as, each day, a few millimeters more of them became visible over the nest’s thatch-and-mud rim.

     Would you stand up to a one-hundred-foot-
     tall, one-hundred-ton alien creature?

As I dabbed alcohol on my small wound and our neighbor tended to her skinned knees—she’d dropped to the ground trying to escape the robin’s clawing and pecking at her scalp—I couldn’t help but marvel at the fierce protective instincts of those birds, each a mere one-thousandth of my weight, risking their very lives to protect their young.

Such instincts are, of course, the rule, not the exception, in the animal kingdom. I was aware of several defensive strategies birds use, including deception (think the injured wing distraction), posturing and even filching protection by building nests near those of other, more aggressive species. And, though I’ve been buzzed by birds before, I’ve never actually been hit.

What about you? Any bird war stories to share?

PHOTO: Alma Alexander

                Might our once-keen instincts 
                have dulled from lack of use?

Do you think every human parent would stand up to a one-hundred-foot-tall, one-hundred-ton alien creature (an animal of about the size of an adult blue whale, as big to us as we are to a robin) to try to save her/his child?

Or might our once-keen instincts have dulled from lack of use? Could they have gotten buried, over thousands of generations, in so many layers of cultural teachings and pretexts that, while those practices may suit today’s generally privileged, sheltered lives, the kind of involuntary, blind fury shown by those robins would be impossible?

Something to think about as we embrace summer and the amazing, complex dance of life that swirls around—and within—us. Keep your eyes open…and your head down.


Unknown said...

Thanks for asking permission to use the robin photo. Please correct the name on the image to David Wildeman. I'll post one thought to the last section in regard to instinct. If I could fly with agile and swoop from a higher position I think I would lunge and peck the alien in the head! ;-)
Dave Wildeman. Meridian, ID. https://www.flickr.com/photos/30093796@N07/

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey Willius said...

Dave -- You're very kind to allow my usage of this great angry robin shot -- especially after I messed up my attempt at finding the correct credit. I've made the correction.
Also appreciate your comment on my post. Yes, I suppose size doesn't matter too much when you have strategic position & agility on your side.

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