Sunday, May 24, 2015

Do Birds Mourn? (a Guest Blog)

I should probably be ashamed to say so out-loud, but I've always felt the loss of a dog, a horse ... even a bird more acutely than I might a fellow human.

So it goes to reason, I reacted with horror when I spotted one of our dogs shaking a tiny bird in her mouth.   I'd no idea what to do but place it gently under one of our giant cypress trees and summon the cavalry.    Together DH and I were clueless, but fashioned an impromptu nest inside a little box and agreed to re-evaluate the situation in the morning.

All night I prayed for a total healing.  Then come daylight, I realized Mr. God had granted my wish in His own perfect fashion.

This happened weeks ago, but I still grieve for that wee being.
...and puzzle for doing so.   Can you only imagine the sodden mess I'd be if I lived in the country?  

* * * * *
Sure and I've seen the essay my grandmother penned (ca)1906,but never bothered to read it until this afternoon.   It's a bit long - without so much as a happy ending - so I'll excuse anyone who's not inclined to read any further.   (The punctuation and grammatical liberties are preserved exactly as was written.) 

"Do Birds Mourn?"

"In the little New England town, near the Berkshire Hills, where we lived, the warm spring days always brought with them the beautiful song-birds.  My husband and I were very fond of birds, and always looked forward to their coming.

In the Summer of 1906 our particular interest was centered in a pair of Robins, who had builded their nest in the hollow of an old apple-tree, in a neighboring orchard, and which I could see from my kitchen window.  I delighted in watching the happy little couple, as they flew back and forth, calling and singing to one another.

One evening, as I was preparing supper, I chanced to look over to the leafy home of my little friends, when I was shocked to see the neighbor's big cat, coming from there, with one of my Robins in his mouth!  I ran out - but the cat slipped under the stable, and out of reach.

I was very unhappy and told my husband about it, on his return.  As we were sitting at the table, in few minutes later, we both stopped to listen - yes, it was a Robin's call.  I ran to the door, and there sat my other poor little Robin, in the apple tree, in front of the stable-door, calling as loudly as he could for his mate.  It was such a pitiful sight!  My appetite for supper was gone, so I sat on the step watching my poor little friend, as he fluttered from branch to branch, incessantly calling.  At first it was an anxious, worried call, which sounded to me like, "Oh, my dear, where are you, where are you?"  But when the loved voice did not answer, his call became more beseeching - "Please, please come!  I want you, I want you!" Still no answer.  Then it seemed his little heart would break.  He flew from tree to tree, and his calling must have reached his other feathered friends, for soon six or seven other Robins came from all directions and fluttered around him, joining in his calling.  I know they were sympathizing with him.

I could not listen to it any longer, for I was crying as though my heart would break.  I went into the house, closed all the windows and doors, trying to keep out that pitiful call.  

As it grew darker, the calls became fewer, as the other Robins flew away to their respective nests again, but my little mourner kept up the plaintive calling, becoming fainter and less frequent, until away into the night.  Then he must have flown back to his nest.  At day-break we awoke to again hear our Robin's voice.  I looked out of the window.  There he sat in his apple-tree again.  But now his call had in it a tone of utter hopelessness, and it soon ceased altogether when my little Robin flew away, and the little nest remained empty.  

It was a long time before my husband or I could forget that little tragedy, and now yet I seem to hear that heart-rending call of my poor little Robin for his lost mate.  And now - does anyone wonder if birds mourn?  I do not."

The author, Adele Willer, with her sons, daughter and my mother (2nd from left).


  1. Myra, I just wrote a long comment and when I tried to post it, I got an "error" message and the comment was lost!

    I just wanted to say that this is a superb post, and it's amazing how your unfortunate incident with the little bird ties in so perfectly with your grandmother's essay about the robin. I love the essay and I'm so glad you shared it. This is tangible proof that our feelings and natural instincts are largely inherited.

    I get extremely upset over the death of animals. I even get upset when one of my cats kills a mouse.

  2. Oh what a sweet essay from your grandmother. I do believe that robin did indeed miss his beloved. A few weeks back we had a dove that was on our patio; it was there for a bit, didn't move like other birds when we went outside. Not sure if it had hit our window and was stunned or what, but I was in near tears about it and said a prayer to God for its safety. It was gone the next morning, not sure what happened.

    I think we are sensitive and that's why we do feel the loss of an animal more than some others. I still deeply mourn the loss of that silly corgi of ours.


  3. Ah, what a sweet report of a time in life that held the Priority. I have seen videos where one mate mourned the other that had been hit by a car.
    Also how sweet to have held that report about a time, 1906 when my dad was 3 years old.
    I am glad you published it here. It is good

  4. Your entry is beautifully written in every way. So nice that you have this memoir from your grandmother.

  5. What a keepsake that is! You should frame it for your 'ish' room. I imagine all mothers mourn. Regardless of their species!

  6. Your grandmothers keen observations were heartfelt and timeless. What a sad, touching essay about the sweet little robins. Fate deemed that you should read it when you did. The timing was perfect after what you yourself encountered with that dear little bird you found clenched in the mouth of a pup. I too share your empathy with animals. And wonder why more people, don't.

  7. I agree with Jon and enjoyed how the two stories tied in together! And that photo--dramatic! Great post!

    Have a great week!

  8. What a touching piece. Your grandmother had beautiful handwriting. Was the son on the far left a minister/priest? I know that mother rabbits mourn.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You're so observant, Gram. Yes, like his father and father before him, my uncle was a Lutheran minister.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  9. Oh, my...I am sad to say that I've never even thought if birds have broken hearts....poor little things..

  10. So beautifully written. When I think of the birds we saved or attempted to save throughout the years. I remember once my nieces ex husband Kelly took the remains of a little bird we had tried to saved and gave him a proper burial while keeping all the little ones at bay. He was the greatest guy ever and she suffered greatly after leaving him. He had a kind heart and those are not easy to come by in this ole world today. Thank you for sharing.


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