Friday, August 29, 2008

The Crucified Cardinal

A juvenile red-tail hawk, in the wood lot behind our house, roosts regularly in one tall honey-locust tree. On a cool morning recently, he has slaughtered a large male cardinal, leaving him splayed in a crucified pose on the path that cuts back toward the corner of the nearby field. The cardinal's wings are angled into the level-straight clean horizontal. His head is gone, his once rounded midsection now flat and wide open--all of its organs gone--leaving a blood red mass in the middle of the body cavity that matches the color of his feather almost perfectly. One small curl of grey intestine hangs down over his reptilian legs, trailing out onto the hot, dry ground. His tail is fanned out perfectly, as though it has been arranged in this feathery fashion by some unseen and homicidal hand. 

The next morning the crucified cardinal is gone. He has disappeared. No remnant of his raptor feast remains, nothing at all on the dusty dirt path save one tiny fluff of blood-red cardinal feather-down. On that same midday the juvenile red-tail is still perched above his cozy killing field. Later that afternoon he is joined by a second hawk. The two hunters stand mere inches apart, their heads twirling from side to side silently, their eyes surveying the wide fields beyond the trees, out off toward the northern mountain ridge and the sunset western distance.  
--A. N.

1 comment:

Ed Webb said...

They do not forget that they are cousins to the dinosaurs. Beautifully observed. You might want to check in with the Orwell diaries ( to enjoy Mr. Blair's observations on nature including, today, the colour and volume of bird shit.