Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Backtime's Bird Episode

This beautiful creature is a Cedar Waxwing. Note the red fringes on the wings and the yellow tail. That's how the bodies were identified when I found three of them dead in my yard, seemingly fallen out of the sky. One was mildly gutted like a squirrel had gotten to it, but the other two were perfectly intact.

Like many people who don't know anything about birds, a couple of thoughts got into my head. First, is there some kind of avian flu going around? And second, is this just some sort of Ornithological Darwinism taking place in the tree beside my house?

I know my neighbors have a bird feeder right on the other side of the fence, so I went to ask them if they had any insight, but they weren't home. The mystery deepened and I didn't want to move the bodies until I had some answers.

So I called Savannah Critter Control, who had been helpful when a couple of birds got into my daughter's room through the chimney a few years back. They said if they're babies they might have just lost their mama and given up. They looked very much like the fully-developed bird in the picture above so I surmised they weren't babies. I was told that no warnings had been issued about birds, but I was referred to the Health Department.

I called the Health Department and reported the dead birds, and they immediately referred me to mosquito control. Mosquito control told me it was far too early in the season for that type of transmitted virus, and they would have no need to remove and study the birds. But they also said that I should use gloves and a sealable bag when I disposed of the birds, just to be safe. Which I did, and kept them in a clear, sealed bag for my neighbor's return.

It turns out she is in a bird-studying program, and was able to call up the Cedar Waxwing through some app in her phone. She had heard some commotion in my tree (which extends into their yard) the night before, which supported the Ornithological Darwinism theory presented earlier. I had heard the birds too that evening as uncommonly loud, but my daughter was playing Angry Birds on her IPad at the same time, so I wasn't sure what was which.

The neighbor said she would call her mentor, and ask what may have happened. A few minutes later she relayed another theory.

The Cedar Waxwings love berries, so much so that they get drunk from them - which is probably why they were so loud - damn drunk birds! Then when they were drunk, they either flew into the side of my house and died, or simply lost the ability to fly and then died when they hit the ground after a significant fall. Don't drink and fly!

So now I know something (or at least next to nothing) about birds, in my quest to know a little bit about everything. When Jeopardy! comes to Savannah I want to be ready.

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