Life and death behind the U-Haul building (trigger warning: small animal death)

I stopped by Cohoes Flats this morning in search of the Little Gulls (more on that later). Dipped on the gulls, and as I was returning to my car I saw a Fish Crow with something white in its beak. It was hop-flying around a mowed lawn, pursued by a …rabbit? I couldn’t figure out why a rabbit would be dashing after a crow for a chunk of discarded sandwich — then I heard the squealing. The crow had a rabbit kit.

As long as the baby kept crying, the mother tried to scare the crow into releasing it. She charged at it spooking the bird into short flights and driving it off its prey more than once. Oddly, she didn’t then approach the crying kit to carry it back to the nest, allowing the crow to grab it again.  At last after several long minutes the kit was silent and stopped moving, and the crow landed and began pecking. It was immediately joined by two more Fish Crows, both squawking, gaping, and fluttering their wings. The first bird stuffed them for a while before abandoning the carcass to the young birds.

As soon as the baby rabbit stopped squealing, the mother ceased her aggressive behavior. She sat staring at the crows for a while, scrubbing her face with her front paws — displacement activity, maybe. She moved a few feet away and hunkered down on her form* again, until the crow dove at her, driving her away and snatching another kit. This one was also killed and fed to the hungry nestlings — a shorter process this time with fewer charges from the rabbit as though she was getting discouraged.

Once again, and the crow took a third kit. Perhaps this was the last of her young, because after a few perfunctory charges the rabbit retreated to a brushy hedge and I lost sight of her.

The crows took off too, and I crossed the field to find a circle of dry grass and rabbit fur. All the young ones were gone.

I didn’t take any photos while this was all happening. I was tempted to intervene, to run over flailing my arms and shouting, but why? Young rabbits die so young crows can thrive and be eaten in turn. That’s life, and death, and a rabbit’s life is no more valuable than a crow’s, and neither is mine.

There’s a rabbit in the yard right now, about half grown, busily nibbling a daylily leaf. Its eyes are half-closed against the sun but its nose and ears are in constant radar movement. A tap of my finger against the window, and it freezes. I relish its presence, its apparent pleasure in the day and abundant food. I’d feel much the same if a fox pounced on it to satisfy its own hunger. All as it should be. If only we big-brained masters of all creation found it so easy to figure out our place in the web, how to move through it without snapping threads and destroying the intricate connections we can’t even see.




*That’s the term for a rabbit nest. A squirrel nest is a drey. Now you know!

Categories: bird behavior, Mammals too, Why? | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Life and death behind the U-Haul building (trigger warning: small animal death)

  1. Poignant story, and well-written. The is definitely a cycle of life, and a hierarchy thwt some call the food chain. I can understand the temptation you felt about perhaps intervening. I would have felt the same.

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