© Vincent J. Marquis, 2021
(I offer this little story as a change of pace from the usual fare in this blog.)
Once upon a time, Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Vulture, and Mrs. Crow met around a grizzly bear’s carcass. The bear had simply died of old age. Mrs. Eagle ate her fill and set aside some large portions at her feet to take back to her nest for her young. Then Mrs. Vulture did the same, and finally Mrs. Crow had her turn. At last, all were satisfied.
Mrs. Crow was a very curious bird, and, setting down a choice piece meant for her nestlings, she turned to ask the eagle, “I mean no disrespect, Mrs. Eagle, but why are you still sitting there observing me and not returning to your nest to feed your eaglets?”
“There is no rush,” replied Mrs. Eagle. “My mate is there with them and will remain till I get back. They are in no danger. Only humans sometimes bother us by climbing our cliffs or trees to steal our eggs. Some of them like to hunt us for our feathers from time to time as well. I can never understand why they do this, though, as they do not eat either our eggs or us, nor can they use feathers to fly. But we really don’t have many dealings with those earth-bound creatures on two legs. We keep our distance from them as much as possible and try to attract their attention as little as possible. But they are a curious people and there are always a few who try to interfere with our lives.”
The lively black bird with the twinkling eyes looked at the eagle, thinking to herself, ‘How large and powerful and majestic she is. I would like to be that big and powerful. And how high she flies – so high she can see almost the whole world in a sweep.’ Then she turned to Mrs. Vulture and asked, “And you, Mrs. Vulture, do you not have nestlings to return to feed, yet you have remained while I have eaten.”
Mrs. Vulture was not the most astute of the three, so her answers were simple. She replied, “I always watch where the eagles are, as they always point to food. My eyesight is almost as good as Mrs. Eagle’s, and my sense of smell is even better. But she is the better flyer and she sees farther. I am not a hunter, so I can only wait for a kill someone else makes before I can eat.”
Mrs. Crow was the smallest but the smartest, although she would never say so aloud with Mrs. Eagle, at least. But Mrs, Eagle was very observant. She saw much but said little, and waited to consider before she spoke. She addressed Mrs. Crow. “Mrs. Crow, I have often seen you and many of your tribe around carcasses. And I have observed that you are not above stealing the eggs and young of other tribes. Yet I find you here alone today. Where is your tribe? Are you not the scout sent to find the food today?”
The black bird with the twinkling eye hopped onto a convenient branch so she could look Mrs. Eagle more equally in the eye. “You are very observant, Mrs. Eagle, and are reputed to be wise. My tribe is not far, and I have only to call them. But you and Mrs. Vulture are still here, and courtesy says we must wait our proper turn. Am I mistaken, Mrs. Vulture, in saying that there are also usually others of your tribe who come when you find a carcass?”
Mrs. Vulture answered, “No you are not mistaken. That is so, but as we are much larger than you, we do not call the whole tribe when we find food. Each of us must eat much more than would fill your belly, so if there are too many of us, there is not enough for anyone. So we watch one another, and those who can see and smell a kill go down to it, or follow the one who finds it. And those who are not there and cannot see or smell or follow must find their own food somewhere else.”
“Very interesting,” observed the crow. “But do you not also hunt sometimes? You have the size and strength to do so.”
“We are not a fierce tribe like the eagles,” said the vulture, “but we follow animals we sense are injured or sick and likely to die soon. If we become a large group circling and waiting, some of us who are more daring may go down and begin to feed even before the creature dies. I suppose that might be considered hunting of a sort.”
Mrs. Eagle scanned the vicinity and, grasping the portions for her nestlings in her beak, she leapt into the air with a great beating of her wings. She began to ascend, searching for the updraft she knew was there. A dead grizzly bear was not her family’s usual bill of fare, but the fishing had not been good of late, so she took what she could get. She noticed more vultures circling down towards the carcass. She would tell her mate where it was, and if he came the other birds would move off till he had eaten his fill. Being the King and Queen of bird-kind had its perks, after all.
Mrs. Crow decided it was time to feed her young and let the rest of her murder in on her find. If she delayed any longer she risked a severe reprimand from the murder elders. She also saw the careful approach of more vultures, but crows and vultures rarely quarrelled. They could share a large carcass, as long as the crows respected the claims of the larger birds. She remarked to Mrs. Vulture, “You are about to have company from others of your tribe. You did well to come early. I am calling in my friends as well. I will stand watch for them while they feed, since I have already fed myself.” She took her portions for her nestlings and departed.
Which tribe are you?