Saturday, October 11, 2008
10 million blackbirds
This little juvenile sparrow hit my dining room window yesterday. She didn't survive. A flock of sparrows were hopping about the rose bushes and sheltering in the hops covering the back deck trellis, when they were startled by the gas meter reader striding through the yard. This little bird flew straight into the window as I sat at the table marking papers. I thought it would revive (sometimes they go into a comatose state for awhile) but this one succumbed. The patterning and colouring of its feathers are so intricate and beautiful; it's amazing what shades of brown and gray can call up. Needless to say, I had to interrupt my work to dig it a grave, and as I buried that lovely little songster beneath the lilacs, my mind turned to the 10 million blackbirds.
10 million blackbirds. I keep trying to imagine the scale of these deaths, all these blackbirds freezing to death due to "surfactant" sprayed on their roosting grounds to get rid of them, those 10 million blackbirds that Russell Greenburg writes about in "Bye Bye Blackbird" , which I linked to in my last post. Here is the excerpt:
"In fact, as a group, blackbirds are often legally classified as pest species and subject to control efforts. For example, as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-APHIS control program, surfactants, which destroy the insulating ability of feathers, were sprayed on 83 wintering multispecies roosts in three states between 1974 and 1992, freezing to death more than ten million blackbirds. These included an estimated 100,000 rusties, even though rusty blackbirds are not pests, but primarily insect-eaters and feed on grain only on occasion. Although blackbird control at such a grand scale is no longer practiced, rusties often roost with other blackbirds and get caught up in the slaughter."
"Blackbird", as a teen I used to listen to this Beatles tune over and over again. I think I've still got the LP kicking around somewhere in my garage.