I Witnessed a Murder

I witnessed a murder, and I’m complicit!

My majestic Cooper’s Hawk is much more admirable

sitting on my fence preening, posing, scanning—

scanning for an anonymous lunch.

But this lunch was screaming!

It was the screaming that got my attention—

little bird screaming,

blackbird screaming.

And not in the dead of night, but in the light,

on my lawn,

by my window.

I didn’t want to watch, but I couldn’t break away.

I squinted.

He held him down with those talons, those strong wiry talons,

so much more picturesque gripping my fence.

This gripping was a National Geographic tooth and claw kind of gripping.

He pecked with hooked beak—all that power,

planting in flesh in flesh in flesh,

in the writhing, screaming flesh.

He spread his wings, he flapped and gripped and grabbed

while blackbird, my well-fed blackbird, my backyard fed blackbird


It made me shutter, but I dared not look away.

I felt guilt and contemplated becoming a vegan,

but it was amazing and strangely beautiful,

this carnage in my backyard.

I fatten his prey with my feeders.

I lure him here with my camera and admiration.

And I know he, too, must eat—it is the way of things.

But it was that screaming,

that blackbird screaming,

that backyard screaming . . .

I witnessed a murder today, and I am complicit.

About apronheadlilly

wife and mother, musician, composer / poet, teacher, and observer of the world, flawed Christ-follower
This entry was posted in Hawks, Photography, Poetry, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to I Witnessed a Murder

  1. selah says:

    where we used to live, I stopped having a feeder after I saw a hawk come in and grab a finch..

  2. I’ve never witnessed a birdy murder, only the afterwards. Could it have been a Starling? I’m not happy with those birds and hope the Cooper’s gets his fill. Strangely, we’ve seen our Coop far less this year than last. Maybe it is because the larger raptors are hanging around a little more, but they are not the bird eating kind.
    We found a pellet (the undigested stuff raptors hack up) in the yard last week. I’ve thought of writing about it, but grandma reads the blog. I am sure she would not be pleased to know I let my children pick up unsterilized pellets. Her son was rather grossed out by it.

    • It was definitely a blackbird. I seldom see starlings here at my feeder. It was interesting but disturbing, too. I don’t do death well. I remember on a home school hike finding owl pellets and picking apart the little rodent bones inside. Don’t tell grandma. 🙂

      • With all the food we have, we only rarely see the Starlings at the feeders. They do like the suet when they come. But they have been trying to take up residence in the nesting boxes we have. If the one child didn’t work so hard on the Flicker box, I’d be more apt to just take it down. They’ve investigated the Kestrel box, but don’t seem quite as interested in it. The Red-winged Blackbirds like perching on it, but they won’t use boxes for nesting.

    • Actually, what was the most disturbing was the screaming of the captured. It went on for over a minute!

  3. susansplace says:

    Yikes! First of all, stunning photo of your “Cooper’s”…. I definitely could not have dealt with this in the poetic way you did. I would have been out there — banging on the Cooper’s head with a broom. But being from California, I had to write and say hi!!

    • The pics I had were taken a few months ago. This one was younger because he wasn’t as blue, and he was smaller. I didn’t run for the camera because I couldn’t pull myself away, plus with a broken rib, I’m not doing any running! But then again, I wouldn’t want a picture. They are amazing, really. And they have to eat. But the violence right there–disturbing to me. Nice to meet a fellow Californian.

  4. I too witnessed a murder last night too – this time my black cat with a baby squirrel. It was tragic.

  5. Dor says:

    Eeeek! Like watching a horror film I guess. Your poetry is amazing. There would be no better way to describe what you saw. The predator here was a very large, graceful black snake who went after baby blue birds in their nesting box while the parents stood by screaming but helpless to protect. I too, was complicit by putting up the box.

  6. I’m one of these people that intervenes with the laws of nature, imposing my own views wherever possible. (You can read about this in my next post :))
    I’d likely have gone screaming out the door and chased the hawk away. If I’d seen a snake anywhere near my bluebird nest, he’d have been routed or clouted.

    • Problem: I heard the screaming bird, but by the time I tracked down where it was coming from, the poor thing was pinned to the ground and already had been severely wounded, though he was still fighting. Plus, with my hobbling around with a broken rib, I would never have made it. But it is a quandry. Cooper needs to eat, too. I jusy rather would not see it. 😛

      • You’re right: once the bird is wounded, best leave well enough alone. Even if a cat has a bird by a wing, likely it will have broken bones. That’s when I wander off and let nature take its course.

  7. Madhu says:

    That was awesome! The pictures too!
    I don’t think we should interfere with nature either, but it would be hard to watch!

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