Suicide birds

24 February 2008

It is quite impractical that the New Zealanders declared the kiwi bird as their national logo. The best feature of a bird is its capacity to fly, but specifically that fact, is what the kiwi bird is unable to.
He lives at night, so almost nobody has ever seen him in real. In return of this sparse favor, all New Zealanders have to leave their dogs at home if they want to walk in the woods, because imagine … the almost extinct and nearly blind kiwi could be attacked by your dog.
The bird is protected by all joined forces, but it is actually fighting a losing battle.

suicide birdsOnce I have seen one. The kiwi was hatched and raised by a special kiwi caretaker/educator and at that sacred moment it should be released on the nature reserve Whale Island. From close by it is a large chicken with soft salt-and-pepper coloured hair and a small, shy head which he completely held hidden under his own rudimentary useless wing.

Until the 80s all kiwis got a transmitter on their back. After one of them ‘committed suicide’ they stopped with this ridiculous habit. The suicider laid at the bottom of a mountain ridge. Yeah, what do you think?! Back in those days, transmitters had the size of a brick! Imagine that you -as a human- had to carry around the battery of a truck on your back every single day. And you are not able to curling up in a comfortable sleep position, because of that ‘huge thing’ you can’t get rid of. If you bend over to pick up a little insect from the ground, you get a punch in your neck of the shifting battery. Constantly you are stuck in the bushes and slowly you become crazy from the itching of that chafed skin. That’s quite depressing, isn’t it? A solid reason for suicide.

Recently Frank and I visited Whale Island again and we were told the story of the mutton-bird. A bit of the same kind of tragic.
Whale island is a mountain rising from the sea, which is overgrown with low bushes on top. The mutton-birds make their nests in a hole in the ground. A place high on the mountain is their favorite. Nicely in the beautiful filtered light under the low-hanging foliage.
Just like human kids … mutton kids are fussy eaters. So their parents ‘importing’ the special requested baby food from about 500 kilometers away. I don’t understand such indulgent parents, because that is 2 days travelling per serving!
Because of the ceiling of firm foliage hanging above the kindergarten, just upon arrival the parents draw their wings around their bodies and vertically torpedo themselves to the ground. Sometimes that doesn’t turn out right and they get stuck halfway. Even hopelessly stuck. And die in the face of their hungry children. If one of the parent dies, the picky young bird can forget about the rest of his life.

Frank and a few other visitors of Whale island climbed to the top of the mountain and were witnesses of deserted, magical softly green-lit, fairy like areas under the low trees. And indeed … dead birds were entangled in the branches. The nests on the ground were empty. The crying orphan chicks were probably already devoured alive by … rats? Preying owls? Their own brothers and sisters?