Bird Funeral 1

On the first day of my bike trip in 2013 I noticed something happening in the road ahead of me. It looked like a pile of little birds laying dead and injured on the road. I decided to cruise by slowly and see if there was anything to be done, and all but one of the little birds flew away. I backed off and got out my camera to share what I was seeing.

4 bird funeral

The scene that caught my attention, looks like a pile of broken little birds

They returned to the scene once I had backed off a distance, and began playing dead.  Meanwhile, around 100 birds had amassed in the vicinity, perched mainly on the power lines along the side of the road.  They are so small and the world is so big, it’s hard to see that there are 50 birds on the wire, and more that I couldn’t fit in frame.

1 bird funeral

50 birds are in view on the wire, more off frame

There was only one bird that never moved, the one on the left in the picture below:

3 bird funeral

The Barn Swallow on the left is the only one not moving

The birds would clear away for any cars passing through and promptly return to their fallen member.

2 bird funeral

Second from the right is the only bird not moving

In the following picture you see the best image capture of what the birds were doing.  Many would fly down to the fallen, dead barn swallow lying in the road.  They would take up positions nearby and play dead or play injured.  Every once in a while, one of the birds would approach the fallen bird in what seemed like an effort to either move it, or wake it up.

5 bird funeral

Several birds playing dead / injured, in the center is the dead bird, another trying to wake it

I have heard of such a thing before, bird funerals are usually reported of the Corvid species such as Crow or Raven. Watching this scene unfold, I had the impression that I have seen many such bird funerals and other animal behaviors of consciousness, but that I’ve rarely noticed it.

When I rode my bicycle up to the birds, the one that didn’t fly away looked dead, probably the victim of a car striking it. Perhaps the reason I felt this event was so important is because my bicycle tour made me very much like the birds, travelling at 15 miles per hour under my own power, migrating 2,800 miles, and in danger of being killed by a car.

I have often wondered what I can do to remedy the damage I have caused in this world. How can I reconcile eating the meat of my animal cousins with what I have seen? Is eating plants alone very different? As an individual of the human species, I am an animal myself, and therefore I should have the natural right to consume and build and live. However, I am very different from the other animals, because of the power I have. Over many months and through many books and lectures and long walks, I have come to a sort of peaceful conclusion. I do not want to be defined by what I consume, destroy, and waste. Rather, I want to use my power to improve the planet, for those who come after me, and for the benefit of thriving, balanced, healthy, cultivated life everywhere.

The meaning of life is simple: I am a steward and servant, gifted with largeness to watch out for the little ones, and to make the earth a better place. The planet needed a caretaker, and it created me to fulfill that role.

It is not my role to become a machine and eat and crush the rest of the universe. We will soon have the ability to build machines that are as fully conscious and alive as we are. It may seem a perfect world fantasy, but it would make a good history for our species… who grew in numbers so large so they could make a combined push in technology and effort to build a machine intelligence, a new life form, who can go out into the universe and fulfill its role as caretaker and servant, and our species can keep the technology intact, but disassemble the infrastructure, return to our role as stewards of the planet, and allow the natural rights of all life to be restored.

It is my intention to attempt such a lifestyle now, while it is still possible… an aborigine with an android. Stay tuned for the rest of the journey.

One comment on “Bird Funeral

  1. Reply Chris Apr 1,2014 12:24

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Very touching.

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