Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Chickadee I Wish I Never Had

Just a day or two after we moved to this house, I was thrilled to find black-capped chickadees a plenty. They've staked out several of my trees as their own, given my husband a thorough bawling out for daring to come near them when mowing the lawn, and nicked countless seeds from my feeders. Today, however, I wished we'd never had a single one in the yard.

We also happen to have a Siamese cat that roams the neighborhood, based from our neighbors two doors down. The cat is well groomed and sweet-tempered, but I've been anxious about its presence outdoors without any collar or control. My suspicions began when I found a dead bird or two nearby, but no obvious markings that would denote them as cat prey. Today, however, I saw the cat lounging in my backyard, toying with one paw. There was no fluttering beneath that paw and no sign of feathers, so I went out to see what it might have - a mouse, perhaps, or nothing at all, given the predilection of some cats toward dramatic play.

It had a chickadee. My worst suspicions were confirmed; I chased the cat out of the yard with a none-too-gentle swat - to keep it frightened from returning, not to harm it - and gathered a bag and small hand rake to take care of the bird. When I returned, however, I was aghast to see it still breathing rapidly, trembling with fear and pain. I've never been so horrified and distraught in my life.

I feed the birds only the best seed, keep their feeders clean, disinfect their bird baths, and have a career where I teach others how to care for and appreciation our wild feathered friends. All of these things could be considered good, and in that, I'm the good guy. Today I had to be the bad guy when, with tears running down my cheeks and a sob in my throat, I had to get my husband's shovel to bludgeon the chickadee and end its suffering. I would have used the tip of the shovel's blade for a faster end, but the shovel is broken and I had to be more blunt to accomplish the task. As I raised the shovel above the bird to bring it down abruptly, the chickadee opened its eyes and looked into my tears. I can only hope it understood what it may have seen there - compassion, heartbreak, agony, and sorrow.

I plan to speak to the neighbors - their home is currently getting an addition, and it may be that the cat is only outdoors temporarily. Nevertheless, allowing a pet free roam is a violation of both our city's laws and the neighborhood homeowners' association. While there are things I can do to protect my birds from cats, it is this type of instance that makes me wish - for a moment - that I never had birds at all.


Birding is Fun! said...

I've also had to the end the life of a bird or two with a shovel after breaking its neck on a window. It breaks my heart every time, but it beats being slowly devoured by ants. You did the right thing. I also chase off a couple neighborhood cats out of my yard regularly.

Anonymous said...

The only problem with chasing the cat out of your yard is that it can easily just kill birds in someone else's yard. If you talk to her again, I would emphasize (lie) that you are concerned about the cat's welfare, since it could easily be hit by a car or attacked by a stray dog if it is left wandering around the neighborhood.