I found myself wondering about a dead ovenbird I saw this morning in front of an apartment building. The thing was not long dead, and had not been predated, nor nibbled at after the fact. I know lots of migrating birds meet the end by smacking into highrises at night, but I didn’t think that would be the case here. In the first place, the building is in brick and only three stories high, and in the second place, the bird was not right up against the foot of the building.
So my question, in sum, is whether birds are liable to those falling-down-dead maladies that humans get – heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms? Or is it vastly more likely that the bird in question did hit the building at night and just bounce a little?
Bonus birdwatching question: do you get to add a bird to your life list if you only see it dead?
Now that is an interesting question. I once released a common loon that had been treated by a wildlife center. I released the bird around sunrise onto a lake. As I was hiking back to my car, I overheard people commenting on seeing the (for the area) rare bird. Birder friends of mine argued about whether or not it would count had they seen the loon and later found out its story. IIRC there was never an agreed upon solution to the question.
As far as birds experiencing problems that would cause sudden death, I believe the answer to be yes. I have gotten back histopathology reports listing things similar to stroke/aneurysm in caged birds found dead on the bottom of their cage.
For a wild bird, significant pathology prior to death would make flight difficult, and predation more likely.
It’s vastly more likely it hit the building. Most wild birds don’t like long enough to die of ailments of old age.
It may not have been migrating but simply hit a glass window. Depending on the angle, it could have rebounded
No. According to the listing rules of the American Birding Association, to count a bird must be alive and unrestrained (not in captivity or in a net or someone’s hand) when first seen. Eggs don’t count either.
Thanks! Maybe I can maintain two parallel lists, a life list and a death list. In any case, I had never seen an ovenbird before. It’s a beautiful little bird. Sad to think it came all the way from parts south only to meet an inglorious end here.
Back when the West Nile virus was beginning to rage in the Midwest I saw a crow fall dead out of a tree. It was quite sad…a number of his or her fellows soon gathered in the nearby trees and caw’d up a storm.
I saw a bird commit suicide once. I was walking down a sidewalk on Commonwealth Ave in the Brighton area of Boston one day. I felt some wind and then a medium sized bird landed on my shoulder for just a couple of seconds and then launched itself into traffic right under the wheels of a passing car. I looked at the road and there was just a stain with just a few feathers remaining. I didn’t have enough time to talk him out of it. I have no idea if it was an avian mental health issue, problems at the nest, or fermented grain abuse problems but it was very dramatic and sad.
Not a bird but I saw a fly expire once. It was a lazy summer day and I was curled up in a chair in the living room. One of those big, fat flies was orbiting the room, just flying in an oval a couple feet out from the walls, about six feet up. Suddenly the pitch of its drone changed and I looked up to see the fly’s path curve down to vertical and end at the floor. I got up and it was lying on its back in a classic dead insect pose. Fetching a matchstick, I poked at it a couple times eliciting no response.
I’ve found flies after they were dead, and I’ve murdered more than a few myself, but that was the first and only time I witnessed one transitioning to the choir invisible on its own.