I had to laugh while reading Ruthless, violent merlins launch gory enterprise from neighbours' roof in the FYI section of the Saturday paper. It was so over the top I wasn't sure if the author was trying to be humourous or if they were really that appalled at the behaviour of these "blasted raptors", and how the "carnage" continued "day by disastrous day."
Reading the column was good fun, but I had completely forgotten about it until this evening. We have merlins in our neighbourhood, and as I was making dinner (mmmmm, ramen noodles ...) I saw one of them darting into the apple tree behind my house, chasing a black bird. I couldn't see the action, but there was rustling of leaves and weird bird-like noises -- I presume the sound a bird makes as it's screaming for help -- and then the merlin flew off empty handed.
I now have an injured blackbird in the apple tree in my back yard. I would take a picture of it for you, but it looks pretty much like any other blackbird.
Am I disgusted? No. I find it surprising that somebody would be upset or disgusted by a wild predator attacking a fellow animal. Particularly since the violent merlins in question are close relatives to the adored peregrine falcons that make the Radisson Hotel home every summer. Thousands of people watch the web cam as the doting parents tend to the chicks and feed them food. The food, of course, is not take-out from Marcellos or the Green Leaf Café, but birds and small animals that have been torn to shreds by the "powerful, scythe-like talons and razor-sharp beak" of the falcons. It's always a big moment when the young birds are able to tear apart their own prey. "I was thrilled to see the parents bring food to the babies - twice! They are getting more independent every day; shredding the prey on their own in some instances", notes one commenter on the CBC web site.
|Merlin. source: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu|
Story time: I had an opportunity to visit the famed San Diego Zoo a while back. My favourite part was not the zebras or rhinos or strange Asian mammals that I didn't know existed, but an incident that occurred in the bird enclosure. At one point there was a low-hanging branch reaching out across the walking path, and right in the middle of this branch was a spectacular bird from someplace like Madagascar. This amazing and exotic bird, with vibrant red, blue and yellow feathers, had in it's beak a hairless baby rodent, and it was repeatedly beating the rodent against the branch. Over and over again. Thunk, thunk, thunk. I'm sure the thing was dead, but it just kept pummeling the crap out of the animal anyhow. This amazing, exotic, colourful bird. I think my wife almost threw up, but I thought it was hilarious.
Maybe I'm not normal, but my fascination was not so much a matter of blood lust or murderous tendencies, but my interest in nature. I grew up in a small town surrounded by forest and have a great interest and appreciation for all wild things. You don't often get to experience a lot of the nitty-gritty happenings of wild animals, so when you do see nature at work it is quite interesting. That, plus the bizarre juxtaposition of this glorious bird doing something so brutal, provided endless amusement for me. Much like what watching Queen Elizabeth in a hot dog eating contest might do.
Seeing nature at work is even less common when you live in the city. I'm not talking about joggers getting chased by ravenous racoons. That's not normal. I'm not sure what's going on there. I'm talking about the normal predatory animal behaviour that has been making the world tick for eons. I think rather than complaining about the slaughter in her back yard, the lady who wrote the Backyard Bullies article should appreciate her front row seat to this amazing spectacle.
I contacted the author of the Backyard Bullies article, who sent me this: