The bird calls out after realising that his (her?) mate is dead
Image: Wilson Hsu, AbuNawaf.com [larger view].
There are many inexplicable and tragic events in nature, yet few are captured on film. Here is an interesting series of photographs depicting a pair of swallows, Hirundo rustica (known as the Barn Swallow in the United States). In this series of images, we watch the story that unfolds after one of the birds was fatally injured, yet the bird’s mate remains nearby, delivering food or water and keeping its dying companion company.
In this image, we see the healthy bird as it “mantles” (covers with its wings) its injured, but still living, companion;
The healthy bird brings food (water?) to its injured companion, caring for it as if the dying bird was one of its chicks;
Despite the healthy bird’s attentions, its injured companion dies. The healthy bird apparently attempts to rouse its dead companion;
Another look at the obviously distressed bird as it tries to revive its dead and unresponsive companion;
Okay, I am not one to anthropomorphize animals since I am completely unconvinced that most people are capable of experiencing deep or complex emotions, however, this image really makes me wonder what this bird is doing? Is this bird calling its dead companion, hoping the bird will respond to its voice? Or is this bird .. grieving? I mean, what is grieving among humans, except for the deceased’s living companions calling out to their lost friend, and celebrating their friendship by reliving their experiences with their dead companion?
Apparently, the healthy bird remained by the side of its fallen companion for an unknown period of time. What was the bird accomplishing by doing this? Was it guarding its dead companion? Waiting for the dead bird to finally rouse and follow him (her) into the skies?
I am curious to know what you think about this series of images. Certainly, it is heartbreaking to view them through the lense of human emotions, but I do wonder about the emotional lives of animals, especially highly social and intellectually complex animals, such as birds. It is doubtful that birds think about (or obsess about) death as humans do, but does that mean they are less affected by death when it happens to a close companion?
I guess this is one of the many great mysteries that we will never really know the answer to.