17 September 2005

Colaptes auratus on South Wacker Drive

Nature again. Walking to my office the other morning along South Wacker Drive, I saw a Northern Flicker on the sidewalk in front of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. After several classic double-takes—I was so struck by this gorgeous, red-moustached bird just sitting on the concrete as if protecting a tiny pile of eggs—I realized it was quite dead, just beautifully preserved, and wondered how it had got there.

Of course all creatures die, but we don’t usually see the deaths of wild ones (unless we’ve caused them). Live wild creatures are pretty quick to gobble the dead ones up.

I’ve heard of migrating birds dying from smashing into the glass windows of skyscrapers, particularly at night. So that might be what happened. After a bit of Web research, I find that there’s a Chicago organization dedicated to helping bird victims of the glass-window aspect of human encroachment on the planet.

Now I wonder if the bird was just stunned, not dead. If stunned, I imagine it shaking itself out of its stupor in the midst of the swarms of pedestrians passing the Mercantile Exchange at rush hour, and suddenly rising back into the sky, unnoticed by anyone except as a little red dash in their peripheral vision, quickly appearing and just as quickly gone.

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