Today I had the unfortunate and horrific chance to see a death on the overpass outside my window. It wasn’t a human, but does that fact make it any less tragic?
Out my lounge window, a majestic Hong Kong Black Kite (a bird of prey with a wingspan of some 1.5 metres) was circling around obviously intrigued by something on the road below. I was watching it, mesmerised by the way it hovered. They are truly amazing to watch as they cruise effortlessly on the wind currents around Hong Kong harbour.
Suddenly the bird went in for the attack on whatever it had been tracking unaware of the speed and frequency of vehicles on the road. In a blink of an eye it was taken out and a blast of white feathers splayed into the air. The car that hit it didn’t stop, nor the one behind it, nor ANY of the vehicles on the road. I could make out the tip of its black wing reaching out above the median barrier, desperately trying to flap, only to be hit again and again. Eventually the wing was crushed onto the ground and I could see it no more, only the last white feathers fluttering to the ground the evidence of what I imagine was a gruesome sight on the other side of the concrete barrier.
A few minutes later I looked out the window only to see another two black kites circling the area above the fallen bird. One of the birds was slightly smaller than the other but both circled attempting to get as close as they could to their comrade on the ground. I am going to speculate the mate and one of their young for the larger bird seemed desperate to get to the one on the road – circling, starting to dip, then noticing the traffic and pulling back to hover, calling out.
For me, it was heartbreaking. I can’t begin to imagine the sorrow the mate was going through. I don’t know if these birds are monogamous, however the mate circled for a good 1/2 hour above their fallen friend and then returned every 15 minutes for the next hour or so. I was able to get a couple of good pictures of the mate just hanging on the currents watching the scene below.
The police eventually turned up very conscious of the danger of a second incident and the hazard to the traffic from the other kites lingering overhead. The police eventually blocked off the lane where the fallen bird lay. Once the vehicles were no longer driving over the stricken bird and the police had the scene under control, the kites above eventually left for the last time. I would like to say reluctantly, but who can say how the birds really felt as they hovered one last time before flying off.
By the time the department that cleans up road kill arrived several hours had passed. The police had blocked the lane off for an hour and a 1/2 waiting for them. As we watched, the remains of the bird were scraped off the road. It spanned around 4 car-lengths and what was picked up was unrecognisable other than a few feathers. The road was sprayed with something – I am guessing disinfectant – and voila – it was as if nothing had ever happened.
I know it was just a bird, but is the loss of a life so suddenly any less shocking regardless of the species? We aren’t the only creature to feel emotions. Will the other birds mourn the loss of their friend, perhaps a mate?