Birds Hold Funerals For Their Dead

Stuart (cc by-nc 2.0)

Stuart (cc by-nc 2.0)

Disputing the notion that the deaths of animals are insignificant or interchangeable, Discovery News writes that birds gather in vigil by their dead and join together in song:

Researchers have just observed what appears to be the avian version of a funeral. Teresa Iglesias and colleagues studied the western scrub jay and discovered that when one bird dies, the others do not just ignore the body. Multiple jays often fly down to gather around the deceased.

The subsequent ceremony isn’t quiet either. “Discovery of a dead conspecific elicits vocalizations that are effective at attracting conspecifics, which then also vocalize, thereby resulting in a cacophonous aggregation,” Iglesias and her team wrote.

Prior research suggests giraffes and elephants might also hold ceremonies for their dead. If so, perhaps there are shared factors with humans and birds. Solidifying group togetherness and social bonding appear to be key benefits, along with learning how to avoid (if possible) whatever did in the deceased.

31 Comments on "Birds Hold Funerals For Their Dead"

  1. Ted Heistman | Sep 13, 2012 at 11:31 am |

    I know crows get emotional when one of their number is killed and say, hung up on a fence post by a Farmer. In other words it works and often the crows avoid the area after that. You do that with mice and there is no reaction.-

    In defense of Farmers- crows, do really annoying things, like peck each apple on a tree without eating them so that they can’t be sold and just go to waste. 

    Still I admire crows and I always thought they were like a little tribe or a wolf pack rather than just a random flock. I like how they mob hawks at any time of the year, even when they aren’t nesting. Its like they have a grudge against them, they aren’t simply defending the nest they really seem to hate hawks. That seems more human too.

    • Crows do wierd things; like remembering your face if you piss one off, just so they can come back with their little wolf pack to torture you in various ways.

      • Matt Staggs | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

        I have several books at home on crows. You’re right: they’re more like a wolf pack. They’re very intelligent. 

        • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

          Do all strangoids have a fascination with crows?

          • Matt Staggs | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

            Strangoids love strange facts, among them that the “ugly” black birds you see hanging around the power lines are actually highly intelligent, organized and arguably self-aware creatures who actually recognize you by face and know your routine. That’s completely awesome.

          • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

            Perhaps too that they’ve always been associated with the trickster, augury & spectral wisdom – all realms of chaotic perception only the more intrepid or foolhardy tend to seek.  The liminal and shadowy gates between apophenia and low latent inhibition seem to be a favorite roost of our corvid cousins.

          • Matt Staggs | Sep 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

            Very perceptive. BTW, have you been in touch with Metcalfe? He’s eager to speak with you.

          • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm |

            I’ll do so by close of business today : )

          • TennesseeCyberian | Sep 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |

            I’ve been told that crows can learn to speak like parrots. 

            I would love to teach a crow to say: “We’re watching you” or “Scarecrow’s crucified” or “Never more.” 

          • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |

            I think I’d go for this:

            Beyond this world to another, abandoning this world,
            At Death’s door, without friends, in great suffering
            Without refuge, without protection, or anyone close
            This life’s perceptions are fading away. 
            You are going away into a different realm.
            Entering a dense darkness, falling into a great abyss.

            Preferably with some of these sounds interspersed.

          • Littlemisteramerica | Sep 15, 2012 at 11:02 am |

            They can. This crow has damaged wings and was rescued by a nature center near me. I’ve seen him before but never seen him speak firsthand yet:

      • When I was a kid my friend and neighbor was nursing a baby crow that had fallen from the tree back to health. When I was walking home one day, the bird, who knew its baby was inside the garage, came after me and hit me in the head. I ran like hell because I was 9 and terrified it was gonna peck my eyes out!

      • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm |

        I designed a coat-of-arms for myself self years ago that included a raven perched atop a head with a plucked eye in its beak. 

    • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

      I once watched and listed to a crow sing (not caw) a rather haunting cooing at a chick that had fallen from its nest and died.
      Have you read In the Company of Crows and Ravens?  Fantastic book.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Sep 13, 2012 at 11:46 am |

    Scrub Jays are fascinatingly intelligent birds, I could watch them all day.

  3. why can’t the just write “other bird join in and they share in song…”
    cacophonous aggregation…. who even came up with these words! lol

    more proof that animals are beautiful people.

  4. Matt Staggs | Sep 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

    Some glad morning when this life is o’er, 
    I’ll fly away; 
    To a home on God’s celestial shore, 
    I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

  5. Simiantongue | Sep 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

    There is kinship in a murder
    or so the story goes
    mourning is the nature of nurture
    that consoles a pack of crows

    • Calypso_1 | Sep 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

      did you compose that?

      • Simiantongue | Sep 14, 2012 at 2:36 am |

         Yeah. I usually try and keep this crap in but occasionally it slips out sorry.

        • Calypso_1 | Sep 14, 2012 at 10:19 am |

          Actually I quite liked and noted it down. Should I simply make the attribution to – Simiantongue?

          • Simiantongue | Sep 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

             You can claim you wrote it in fact, no need for attribution. Being somewhat introverted, as well as having slightly off kilter ideas about intellectual property I see nothing wrong with that. Do as you see fit and run with it.

          • Simiantongue | Sep 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

             You can claim you wrote it in fact, no need for attribution. Being somewhat introverted, as well as having slightly off kilter ideas about intellectual property I see nothing wrong with that. Do as you see fit and run with it.

  6. it always amuses me when humans
    suddenly discover their animal nature
    is shared by other animals

  7. teachpeace | Sep 14, 2012 at 12:07 am |

    Strange as this may sound…….
    This subject reminds me of an experience a couple yrs ago.
    After the passing of a long time animal companion, my dog, the birds who hang around my back yard
     kept buzzing my head, and fluttering close by consistently when I was outdoors for about a week. At the time I felt that they were aware of my deep connection and loss
    & were in some way expressing that awareness towards me.

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