Jul 24, 2009

Cat outsmarted by birds

"If a cougar attacks, fight back." Those were the instructions on the outhouse wall at our campsite. On an island with the highest concentration of cougars and bears in the world, it's good to know things like that. But when it comes right down to it, I don't know if my strong human body and brain would respond as effectively as the bird-brained robins who defeated my cat this morning.

During our Peaceful early morning garden rounds, robins were suddenly jumping and flying around madly. Their chirps had a parent's panic sound I recognized all too well. Looking down, there was our cat Syd toying with their baby chick.

We tend to see our our pets as just our little playthings, but a cat is a wild animal at heart, and it is awe-inspiring to see them live out their true spirits. Our cute little cuddly kitten who fits so snugly on our laps, was suddenly in his full power as a skilled powerful hunter.

The birds were under no illusions that Syd is anything but a monstrous killing machine. Their little baby was in the clutches of a sharp-clawed beast twice as big and 200 times heavier (a robin weighs 2-3 ounces, less than a CD in a plastic case). That's something like a human toddler being mauled by a lion the size of a buffalo.

But rather than become frozen with fear or give up in desperation, as we might well do, these brave parents hatched a plan and sprang into action. They started dive-bombing as Syd let it go to play for a bit, then pounded on it again, then let it go again. Then as the baby started hopping straight towards me, Mama Bird landed tantalizingly close to Syd. Distracted, he prepared to pounce on Mama, who of course easily flew out of harm's reach each time he tried. Then he'd turn to watch papa bird on a low low branch nearby, then back to mama. All the while baby bird hopped right past me to safety under a bush.

God forbid I should ever see my child attacked by anything, let alone an elephant-sized lion. But if it should happen, I hope I could tap into the raw courage and the instinctive tactical know-how of these bird-brained feather-weight robins.

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