Backyard Birds

Carduelis Tristis: Personal Encounter with an American Goldfinch Pair & Life Lessons Learned ..

Story told by Brian Dupuis
police officer with the Joliet Police Department

American Finch General Information

American Goldfinches

American Goldfinch Pair

I get home from school early today and open the front door. Silence, except for Brock (My 65 lb Pit bull) coming to great me. After the ritual of the tail wagging and playful slaps and gnawing…. I think….”YES !!! I have the house to myself for once.”

No kids asking for this and that, and no wife there to ask me 50 questions and tell me about all the little plants and crafts she bought to spruce up the house. I can relax, take a nap and then study for my test (Yeah, right).

The Tragic Accident

I walk into the kitchen and just happen to glance towards the rear windows and catch a fleeting glimpse of something moving outside— just as I hear a loud “THUMP” as something bounces off the window.

I nearly trip over the garbage can (why we keep right there I will never know) as I walk quickly over to the rear window. I look out the back and see this tiny bright yellow bird with black markings standing by the window well. I’m thinking the little guy just rang his bell by flying into the window.

Then I notice about 1 foot away, another bird. This one is lying on its side. It is a much duller colored yellow, almost dirty looking. This bird is not moving.

Being the sappy animal lover that I am… I go out to check on these little birds.

The Grieving Male

As I approach, the bright yellow bird (obviously the male) moves closer to the dirty yellow bird, who is still not moving. He does not leave his companion’s side as I bend down to take a look.

I’m hoping the little girl is just stunned, and will start moving as I get closer. Her eyes were opened, but I could tell she was gone. I felt the shadow that crosses my heart whenever I have had to face death.

The shadow arrives whether it is a human or animal. In my life, the shadow is often darker, and stronger when it is an animal who has died.

I leave the little fellow alone to mourn his mate’s untimely passing. I will go out later and bury the little girl after her mate has left…and before I let Brock outside.

I do a few things and come back about 30 minutes later…… and the little guy is still there next to his mate, as if just waiting for her to wake up from a nap.

Awww…poor guy, that would really suck to be flying along, having fun and in the blink of an eye lose your mate……….. and then I reflect for a second….

Personal Reflections

I always assumed that in my marriage, I would be the first to die. Especially with my profession. It has really never occurred to me that my wife could die first.

That bright yellow bird could be me…standing on the side of the road somewhere after a car accident, my wife gone in an instant. How much would my life be changed in that instant?

How much has this little bird’s life just changed. It’s amazing how as you get older, you look at life (and death) in new perspectives.

I walk back into the house and notice….. Silence…. it is loud and ominous….I feel…Alone.

I kind of shake my head to snap out of my thoughts and grab the camera. I snap a few pictures of the little birds…. not out of morbid fascination, but to remember this touching scene, lest I forget.

American Goldfinch male allows himself to be picked up from his deceased female's side ...

Getting Close & Personal with the Male

I place the camera on the picnic table and walk back to the little guy, who stands fast, guarding his woman. I speak softly and gently to him, trying to coax him away. He will not leave his post.

My hat’s off to you, little yellow bird. I bend down and move my hand towards him. He watches me intently, but not with fear. When I come within pecking distance, he does not strike or even react. I nudge him under his belly a few times but he is not moving. I continue talking softly and nudge his belly gently.

The little yellow bird then stepped onto my finger as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The Start of a New Life Without His Mate

I walked slowly back over to the picnic table and away from what must be a horrible scene for the little guy. I speak in soothing tones and tell him he will be ok. I bring him up to eye level and we both just kind of looked at each other.

Him – with the look of a widower at his wife’s funeral – and I, as the mourner, who knows that any words I say will not comfort him.

We stayed like this for what seemed a very long time, but I’m sure was no more than a minute. The little yellow bird finally broke the stare by turning his head to the left and then back again it me.

He jumped deftly from my finger, flying in front of my face and over my head.

He flew over the area where his mate lay and landed above her on the gutter of my house. I watched as he looked down, as if to say goodbye.

He then gave a quick turn of his head towards me (at least that’s what my mind tells me) and flew off towards the trees…… to start his new and drastically changed life.

The Rainbow Bridge

I left the little girl there in case the little yellow bird wanted to come back, and went into the house.

A short time later my wife came home. I asked her how her day was and what she had done, except this time I paid attention and genuinely wanted to know.

After a bit, I told her of the little birds and she actually went out and buried the little girl next to our swimming pool.

I believe in the Rainbow Bridge. I know when I leave this earth that bridge will be before me and I will have to walk up to and cross over it to get to Heaven. I know that as I start to walk… I will be joined by Cleo, Spooky, Snuffy, Brownie, Levi, Hobbes and Brock. They will all be healthy again.

And as we walk towards the bridge I think I will feel something land on my shoulder. It will be two little yellow birds….. and then we will all cross the bridge together.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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