Signs of an epic life-and-death struggle

No doubt because I watched that BBC show on “The Hunt,” predators and prey seem to be weighing on me. In terms of “life and death,” the topic for today’s post feels mighty insignificant compared with the scope of human tragedy in the horrible shootings and police killings in the news. Yet, I also think this post kind of reinforces the ordinariness and small scale of everyday horror depicted in the epic life-and-death battles among most of the animal kingdom in “The Hunt.”

When walking between buildings on campus today, I noticed that several small tree branches were down and littered the sidewalk and street.

And then I noticed the feathers.

feathers on sidewalk

You can see feathers and branches scattered along 50 feet of sidewalk. Not shown are the branches in the street between and under parked cars.

Downtown Milwaukee is home to peregrine falcons, which were reintroduced amid much fanfare about three decades ago. For more background on Milwaukee’s raptors, see “peregrine falcons” at the bottom of the Wikipedia article on the U.S. Bank building; it mentions 1987 as the year the first “hacking” box for a nest was installed. As peregrine families took up residence, closed-circuit video of the nest and chicks could be viewed from the bank lobby (at that time known as First Wisconsin and later as Firstar). Since the internet, streaming video from other downtown falcon nests has been available, too. For example, atop the Milorganite factory next to the sewage treatment plant on the harbor (article here) and atop the We Energies building (article here).

Peregrine falcons eat seagulls for dinner, and after putting two and two together (branches, feathers) I felt confident this was the aftermath of a fearsome battle for life itself between a creature that needed to eat and another that didn’t want to be eaten.

Small feathers scattered everywhere . . .

downy feathers

. . . and larger ones, entangled in the fallen branches . . .

feather entangled in fallen branch



. . . seemed to indicate that a seagull had crashed through the trees, tearing off branches snagged on its wings, in a desperate attempt to save itself.

As nothing more gruesome than feathers were left behind, this gull quite possibly lived to see another day.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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