Posted by: soniahs | July 5, 2011

Attempt to sketch a dead parrot

A few weeks ago, I came across a dead parrot on the side of the road. Not right on the road, but near a hedge bordering the rear end of the local mall. As I was walking, I spotted a brilliant turquoise and gold colored object, crumpled under the hedge. I was sure it must be an article of clothing- maybe someone’s shirt, or a scarf. The colors were so vibrant- at first, I though it must be something made out of silk, or maybe satin. But when I got closer, I saw it was a dead macaw.

It was very hot that day- in the mid 90s- and had been hot for several days. The bird’s body wasn’t stinky- I actually couldn’t smell any rot at all. It was just lying on the ground, wings slightly outspread to reveal its brilliant sea-turquoise and cobalt plumage. Its long tail feathers trailed off behind it. Its feathers seemed strangely smooth and unmarred- there were no ants crawling on them, and none of them were broken. It was lying slightly on one side, so its brilliant gold chest feathers were also visible.

How had it died? And when? It had been a few days since I had walked that way, so its body could have been there a few days. Its eye was sunken, and the white-and-black pattern of feathers on its face was shriveled. I didn’t go up and poke at it, but it didn’t look particularly damaged or like it was in an advanced state of decay. Had it broken its neck by flying into the tree near it? Did it die of thirst, or disease? Was it attacked by our neighborhood red-shouldered hawk? I suppose if I had examined it more closely, there would have been some clues. But at that point, I was really just disturbed at finding it there.

Suburban Orlando is not the place you expect to find the body of a blue-and-gold macaw, just lying on the side of the street. Was it someone’s pet, and escaped in a bid for freedom? Did it escape from a pet store? Was it released because it was too expensive to care for, or because it was aggressive or insane from a life in captivity? Did it enjoy a few days of freedom, or did it starve to death in terror, not knowing how to forage for itself, or did it expire from the heat? Sure, you see plenty of dead birds on the side of the road in Florida- but not giant tropical birds with silken feathers in the colors of the ocean, shining in the sunlight even after death.

The macaw didn’t look like it had been detected by any predators- at least, it wasn’t partly eaten. And, over the next week or so, its corpse just continued to lie there. Was it too dessicated to attract any vultures? Did no feral cats or coyotes happen to pass by it? Maybe the little fence lizards enjoyed feasting on it, but if so, they went at it from underneath. For over a week, the bird just lay there, slowly drying out in the heat.

I kept expecting to find it one day, torn apart by scavengers- maybe missing a wing, or maybe its various limbs scattered under the hedge. But its position never changed.

Another thing I wonder is if anyone else saw it. How could you possibly miss a gloriously-colored bird like this, lying under a bush as it was? Are people so habituated to roadside trash that they avoid actually looking at what lies there? I wonder about this because the bird just lay there. No one came to pick it up and put it into a dumpster, or to gather its feathers for decoration. Granted, I didn’t mention it to anyone, or remove it myself. But clearly I’m the sort of person who has a morbid curiosity in checking up on the slowly decomposing carcass of a large bird from time to time. I’m surprised that no one else did anything about it.

About two weeks after I first saw it, I walked past the bird again, and the groundskeepers were trimming the hedges of the mall. Surely, they would remove the bird’s body? In fact, they did not. They just rolled it further under the hedge.

As of today, the macaw still lies there. The feathers are starting to look disheveled, but they still keep their brilliant colors. It can’t be long until the colors begin to fade, and what is left is a skeleton covered with dried-out skin and dangling feather shafts, leached of their color.

I’d like to think that this bird was at least happy in its few hours or perhaps days unconfined. But I just can’t tell myself that it was. But maybe it had at least some pleasure from flying free, if only for a time.

Blue-and-gold macaw, flying free. (Image © Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0), http://www.lucnix.be)

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  1. […] the whole business with the macaw, I was afraid we’d witness a tragic accident, but he proceeded to walk down the bike lane and […]


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