I’ve heard about the phenomenon of bird funerals online through various interesting YouTube videos of different species of birds gathering around a fallen comrade or even animals of different species. Unfortunately, I was directly involved in one today in my back yard.
A group of Woodhouse Scrub Jays has taken a liking to me and the peanuts I hand out to them several times a day. I often hear them squawking about outside and have even hung around them enough that I can tell the difference in each cry that they make (basically various versions of screaming, which is usually pretty comical when they’re fighting each other over food).
But today I hear a very loud commotion by not just one, but a large number of jays screaming at the top of their lungs. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that something might be going on so I went to investigate. As I entered the back yard, I noticed all of the screaming birds sitting on the fence between my house and the neighbor’s. Our houses are separated by a utility access ‘road’ (more of a wide path, really) and laying at the base of my neighbor’s electric fence was one of the jays that have been hanging out with me for the past few months. His friends either knew he was dead or were asking for help so I walked around the fence and up the smallish alley and gently removed the bird from the fence. He was definitely dead, his left foot having been burned off completely. I’m sure the death was instantaneous. Other than the foot, it seemed like he was sleeping.
I brought the bird back and set him on the ground next to where my dog is buried and dug a small hole for him (or her) while his flock watched. I left him there (he is still laying on the ground) and every five minutes or so he gets visitors who either perch on the fence or rosebush next to it. None of them have gone down to examine him, but they are definitely keeping watch. I’ll put the little dude to rest a bit later when his family is done doing whatever it is that birds do at their funerals.
RIP, my little dude.