I saw a crow kill a sparrow a few days ago.
The crow was being harassed by two sparrows. It had one in its mouth and the other was attacking its wings. When I saw them, the crow and the sparrow were both alive and kicking; the crow was in the act of taking the sparrow’s head in its mouth, and shaking.
It only took a second for the sparrow to die. When I walked up, the crow flew away, but the sparrow wasn’t moving. It looked asleep. I tried to prod it and wake it up but there was no ‘there’ there. No more sparrow.
When I took a step back, the crow took a step forward. When I stepped forward, it stepped back. Finally I had to go to work, so I left.
I had been visiting my parents when it happened and my mother continued to watch, from inside. She said the crow returned after I backed away and pecked the sparrow repeatedly. Finally it flew off with the sparrow in its beak. The other sparrow was long gone.
This was the entry point into a conversation about birth, death, and anthropomorphism. There were other people searching online as I was for the question why do crows kill other birds. The answer was because they’re predatory scavengers and they do that for food.
Cornell probably has the best ornithology department, and on their page, they talk about this idea of compensatory mortality. Environments have their carrying capacity; if the sparrow lives, another one will die somewhere else. Clean, crisp: end of story.
When I told friends I expected sympathy for the sparrow, as I felt, but most of them, men and women, said a crow has to eat. Seeing the crow ready to ‘finish the job’, I was struck by how unpleasant it was for me to see a ‘regular’ bird like this, slowly offing another bird. Insects are different, small and barely sentient, but another bird… Not cool, Mr. Crow. Not cool.
Of course, that doesn’t matter. The crow flew away, prize in beak; I had to go back to work. We all have to eat.