Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bird Mourns Death of Mate...

This is an old story and set of pictures (which I could not find the original), but our friend, Patty passed them along today and I was so touched... I thought I would share...


A flock of Barn Swallows had stopped on a highway,  perhaps to hunt or rest.  A vehicle passed by and one of the birds was injured and unable to move from the roadway.


Here, she is, but the condition was fatal.


Her mate lingers nearby and eventually brings food to her.

On one of his return trips he finds his mate dead and seems to try to shake her awake and attend to her.


Aware that she is lost to him he seems to cry out in anguish. Every time a car passes, the bird flies off for a moment but then returns to mourn.  Shocked at her death, he tries to move her.


Eventually the photographer, concerned for the safety of the living bird, put down his camera, picked up the bird and removed it from the road. The grieving bird lingered in a nearby tree, "crying" out loud.  This photo breaks my heart...
No one knew how long he stood beside her and appeared to mourn...

I have actually witnessed mourning behavior in a squirrel that was hit by a car, where his/her mate kept trying to move the body and sat beside the body for several hours.

According to Darwin...the difference between us and animals is only a matter of degree.

15 comments:

Birding is Fun! said...

Fascinating series of photos and storyline. Yesterday while on my lunch-hour bird walk I heard a dozen Magpies just going crazy, so I figured they were mobbing something. I walked slowly toward them and eventually spooked a Cooper's Hawk which flew off with a dead Magpie in its talons. The magpie's followed. One might assume that they were continuing their mobbing behavior as a self-defense mechanism. I got the distinct impression that they were just really ticked-off! Its hard not to apply human emotions to birds when they act like us sometimes.

Kah-Wai Lin said...

Sad and touching series of images!

John said...

The next-to-last photo is a very touching one.

Anonymous said...

I witnessed a nearly identical situation with a pair of mourning doves. It broke my heart and the memory can still bring tears to my eyes. These photos of the swallows are beautiful in the most despairing and desparate way.

Larry said...

That is so sad and touching.I always question those who minimize what an a bird or animal can think or feel.

Anonymous said...

My cat brought a gray catbird into the kitchen a half an hour ago. It was still alive. Then while my husband was trying to get something to scoop the bird up, the kitty finished it off...After taking the dead catbird outside, its mate just kept on crying and visiting and it really brought me to tears. I have learned my lesson to just pick up the bird myself because had I not been scared to do so, it might have lived. I put the dead cat bird on the edge of the woods behind the house and covered it with some beautiful flowers from the garden. I hear the bird outside right now calling for its dead mate and it makes me so sad...

Anonymous said...

this is really sad and i saw this picture one time in a powerpoint about love and caring and sadness and it really did break my heart i do not cry easily and ive rarely ever cried even at funerals for very close friends and family memebers but this set of pictures really did make me cry.

Mike said...

Sorry, but that is simply a male barn swallow trying to mate with a dead barn swallow. There is no sentementality involved at all. Barn swallows do not mourn their dead mates. They find a new mate within days and forget the old one in within a couple of hours. I have a degree in ornithology and have studied birds for over 40 years.

Anonymous said...

I see someone here says that because he is an ornithology that this bird is not mourning but rather trying to mate? LOL not true. I tudy animals and their behavior such as sorrow, mourning, joy and study them o being reunited with people after time of not having seen them. This bird is morning not trying to mate. How sad that such educated people cant accept that animals truly have feelings and emotions - and in this case as we see a sweet little bird. Very touching images and I thank you for capturing them and for moving the baby out of the road to not be hit.

Anonymous said...

I find it sad that someone who claims to have a degree in ornithology would say this bird is trying to mate. Well I study all animals. Not just birds. This is a tragic moruing for ones mate. I have seen it in all types. In digs, cats, squirrels etc...and it is mourning. Whats sad is that people still dont believe animals feel sadness, joy, fear, loss. They do. and I thank you for the images. They are so sad. Poor little bird without her mate, also thank you for moving it off the road.

Zander said...

Guys. it really is just a swallow copulating.
Now I don't care who says what, I did my honours on swallows. and have watched them carefully for years.
that is the mating of the barn swallow, and because the female cannot escape the male takes full advantage.
naturally she would make him chase her around and only after she is confident that he is a good fit mate, she will let him at it.
His natural instinct is to get her down and copulate.
and the call is telling other males that he "is here"

Anonymous said...

This appears to be two male swallows. He is assuring that a rival male is dead.

Anonymous said...

Elijah said...
I know this story is supposed to be touching and all, but, being the cynic thatI am, I couldn't help but notice that both birds, male and "female" have the same coloration. This is very unlikely, since female birds are rather drab in color. This looks more like a fight between 2 males, with one killing the other. I see no evidence of one "feeding" the other. It looks more like one is attacking the other, then claiming victory upon his opponent's death.
Now, I love animals more than your average person, but the story woven around these pics sounds more like sheer fantasy rather than fact. But hey, that's just me. Please don't get mad. There are 2 sides to every "story".

Anonymous said...

My bird ID reference (Mitch Waite) shows coloration on male and female barn swallows both quite vivid- the female slightly duller, but only slightly. They are monogamous.

Anonymous said...

You haven't heard an oriole's cry, or a cat bird's sad calls and not believe they're mourning over a dead mate. There is a new video of a cat attacking a dog to protect a little boy, chasing the dog away and then returning to the child. Animals care more than we know, or admit.