It happens all too often this time of year. A student runs in, breathless: “Emily, there’s a hurt/dead bird!” A crowd has likely already gathered around a tiny still figure. Or maybe it’s still fluttering a bit, but its head is cocked awkwardly to one side, one eye barely open. Usually it lies beneath a window. Today, there were two casualties, a junco and a cardinal. Sometimes I bag and label birds that die and put them in the freezer with the frozen mice. I pull them out when we are learning about bird adaptations, and we compare feet or bills or plumage. Or we may bury it, its grave marked with an elaborately decorated stone.
Other times, it is just a scattering of feathers that we find, the plucked remains from a hawk’s meal. These feathers usually make their way into someone’s fort collection, become decorations, or are attached to a whittled arrow.
A pileated woodpecker with a neck injury appeared mysteriously on the soccer field after a game recently. No one saw it land there; it was seen struggling to get upright, and was brought to the science room. It was eventually taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center. No word has yet come as to its condition; we expect it did not survive.
There is something especially poignant about bird strikes, especially when they are committed by an invisible, deadly barrier. Adaptations to aerial predators are no match for glass.