Feathered Grief

Grief for a juvenile peregrine falcon

Photo by Sangeeth N on Unsplash

Lindsay, a juvenile peregrine falcon that many of us had been following via a webcam at UC Berkeley, was found dead yesterday. They think that another hawk got her, as she was found close to the nest of another hawk. Perhaps she got too close to their nest.

I have watched Lindsay grow from being a tiny chick to the day that she fledged. Watching her and her brother, Grinnel Jr., brought me such joy and delight. They settled into a place in my heart.

Juvenile peregrine falcons survive maybe 50% of the time during the first year of their life. They have to learn to hunt for themselves, avoid smashing into windows, and are vulnerable to predators. 

That fact doesn’t make this loss any easier.

I grieve for this feathered creature that I came to love. I was mesmerized by the fierceness of the species as her mother and father (stepfather in this case, since the first male falcon died, and another stepped in to help raise these chicks) would bring in all the birds that they had captured to feed their young. The circle of life. Fierce predators that can fly 200 mph. Intense. 

I felt for the birds that had become their prey. Yet I also felt for the chicks that needed food to survive and grow.

And grow they did. We held our breath, all of us who watched these beautiful creatures grow, as we prayed that they would be able to survive and go out into the world. 

Not for Lindsay. Her time came to an end. And the tears flow for me. Tears for a creature that I never met, but that became part of my days. Tears for a life that was nurtured and sustained by hard working adults who would bring food for their chicks’ relentless hunger. Tears for the gorgeous feathered wings that would fly no longer.

I shed tears as well when I observe our aging elephants at the zoo where I volunteer as part of the Behavior Observation Team for these magnificent animals. I am sobered by discussions that I hear about the ongoing assessment that happens at the zoo about all of its aging or ailing creatures (that cannot be treated, for whatever reason) about the quality of life and when it may be time to end any possible suffering. 

The circle of life is intense. I see my neighbors’ babies and feel such delight and hope for the future, and see my own eventual march out of this world as we make way for younger generations to keep things going, as our time comes to an end. As my time will come to an end. 

I watched a piece of an interview done with Dr. Maya Angelou last evening. One of the things that she talked about , and I am paraphrasing here, is that she decided to fully acknowledge that indeed she would die. So why not try what she could. What a magnificent woman and life. She is one of my heroines. Her wisdom and voice bring me comfort as well as inspiration. 

I am in grief for Lindsay. I miss her presence in my life and in the world. And I am once again having yet another discussion with grief, who as I have written before, becomes an ever more constant companion as I age. 

The message becomes more and more clear. Take wing while you can. You will die, so why not fully experience this life, right here and right now? Do things that you want to that you may be afraid of. Why not? We never know when our time will come. Until then, let’s be present and as alive as we can. Love, be kind, connect, take time for solitude, be your own unique and glorious self. 

Thank you, Lindsay, for having graced my life for a time. I will miss you. 

5 thoughts on “Feathered Grief

  1. As I was reading your article about the loss of your beloved feathered friend Lindsay, through my tears, I got to thinking about tears. What do they mean? I seem to have an almost infinite supply of them lately. I think much about loss and about death, as these seem to be moving ever closer to the forefront of my mortal existence. I think about my wife and my kids, my grandkids, my close friends, the pain and heartache this will inevitably bring. How are they going to be able to cope with me not being around? The same way I recently did with my late brother? Tears. Lots and lots of tears. For us humans, tears seem to be simply a visual cue, a signal to other human beings as though holding up a sign, ’I’m feeling very, very sad right now. I’ve just suffered an irretrievable loss. I need a hug!’
    Hugs to you, Jo.


    1. Thank you so very much, Steve. Yes, tears let others (and ourselves) know that we are sad, very very sad. And that’s ok. Sadness is part of life. All of the feelings are part of life, and need to be honored and heard. Hugs accepted and appreciated, Steve. And hugs back to you as well.


  2. Very sad Josaia, to lose a beautiful young bird. But as you say the cycle of life continues, with them ad with us as well. Sometimes death comes knocking and leaves … at other times it becomes our time. I appreciate this heartfelt piece of both sadness and hope!

    Liked by 1 person

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