Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

Loving All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small

2011-04-22
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
-- from the eponymous hymn, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_things_bright_and_beautiful
I love all the creatures we share this world with. A few days ago, a pileated woodpecker appeared at the feeder outside our kitchen window. I reached for my Android phone to take some pictures when suddenly the bird disappeared!  I knew it hadn't flown off, so I looked down to see if it had gone to the ground after the birdseed that inevitably spills and falls down. Just then it dawned on me that I had heard a 'thump' about the same time. Sure enough the poor creature was then in the jaws of our mighty feline warrior. I rushed to the door, and the cat obligingly tried to bring his new treasure into the house to share with us. I grabbed kitty at the threshold, which startled him enough to let go and, thankfully, the birdie flew away (not into the house!).  Whether birdie will survive, or succumb to toxemia in the next day or so, depends in part on whether the cat actually bit through his skin or merely held on to him during the 15 or 20 seconds of captivity. Nothing I can do about it. If he lives, he will learn to stay well above the ground at feeders, or to avoid them altogether. [A couple of days later, a family member reported a woodpecker at the feeder but acting wary and staying well above the ground, so I'm guessing it lived.]

Songbirds have evolved a myriad of attractive colors, primarily to attract mates, but it has the side effect of making people like them more.

The two main branches of the order carnivora have evolved over tens of thousands of thousands of years into efficient hunters, predators, possessors by strength and cunning of other creatures' flesh. Can you love that "Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright/In the forest of the night" knowing that it would kill and eat you given half a chance? Can you love a furry feline that will destroy a beautiful bird in the interest of a quick meal? Do you love the cat and the bird both? Equally? When a neighbour's dog or a wild carnivore eats your prized show poultry, where then is love?

Yet still I do love them all, for they are all creatures of our world

Update: In 2015 we discovered birdsbesafe.com which markets brightly-colored cat collars that birds are more likely to see than a drab-colored cat. Bird predation has dropped way off since then!