The short disgusting adventure of a birdbrain

So, I get home just recently, after an unusually busy evening.

As I walk in the door, I notice a smoky sooty smell in the apartment. This doesn’t particularly fill me with good feelings, but a quick scan doesn’t seem to show anything in the place scorched, in ashes, or otherwise currently in flames.

I track the epicenter of this lovely aroma down to the small utility area, behind the door of which is the HVAC unit and the water heater. The inside of the door, particularly round the top (smoke rising after all) is black with sooty crap. Intriguing, but the unit doesn’t seem, you know, melted or anything.

I kneel down to look at the pilot light area, peer, my nose wrinkling. There’s a…something…in there that the pilot flame itself is flickering around. There’s a quantity of ash and bigger things that look like…are those feathers? I grab one of the maglites I have laying about so I can see more clearly and…oh, yuck. Is that…yes, it is.

It’s a thoroughly carbonized lump of ash that at one point earlier in the evening, obviously while I was at work, was a bird.

Somehow, this bird found its way into the ducts from outside. It then worked its way through the ductwork of the apartment unit, and choosing out of the four, chose my particular furnace to work its way into–and die by flame within. I imagine it was quite the episode of frantic thrashing inside before it gave in and simply lay there in the pilot wash–and the frequent larger bursts of flame, as it’s been rather chilly tonight and “efficient insulation” is not something that can be applied as an accurate description to my place–and cooked. And provided a lovely stench to fill the place with.

I macguyvered some makeshift tongs and fished the lumps out (the head was almost recognizeable) and, shuddering slightly, dropped them into a garbage bag which was then promptly twisted shut tightly and gotten the hell out of my domicile. And I’ve a couple windows open now, accepting freezing the place in favor of letting things air out some.

I suppose as avian suicide goes, it was impressive. Perhaps it was some sort of statement, akin to the monks who immolated themselves to protest the Vietnam war. And I flinch to consider how the thing must have felt, but Jebus swept. I suppose this is the result of having a brain the size of a fingernail, and why the expression “as smart as a bird” isn’t actually an expression.

On the bright? side? this does perhaps solve a mystery from last winter, which upon searching for it I can’t seem to find. But it involved me being woken up one night and finding a bird mysteriously flying about the place, which I herded back out into the night. Apparently, that bird followed the same route in through the ductwork, got into the hvac, evaded the searing flames, squeezed its way out through the ventilation slots on the lower quarter of the door, and proceeded to wake me up.

Perhaps it was the same bird, grown a bit larger, following a homing instinct. I don’t know when birds developed a homing instinct that encodes “Drastic’s furnace” but I really hope it’s not a trend. But then again if it is, it seems to be a self-correcting one. A stinky self-correcting one, but nonetheless.

In closing, ew and shudder.


We’ve had birds fly down chimneys, get trapped in greenhouses, and even fly through the entomology department, but never…ewww, bleech.

On the other hand, a mouse squeezed itself halfway into a lab cage, got stuck, and tried to make a u-turn. It got permanently stuck and mumified.