Dead Birds


For as long as I can remember I have been moved by the sight of dead birds. I can’t quite express why they move me so much. I am sad, grateful, pained, and enthralled all at once.


I love taking pictures of them- though since I often see them on runs I usually don’t have my camera with me. In fact, the most striking one I ever saw I failed to get a picture of. I was running in Davis out in the fields when I saw a starling trapped dead in a wire fence.  Its wings were outstretched, ensnared in the wire and I presumed it died struggling to free itself. It was so beautiful and so sad. It was glistening all sorts of glossy blacks – tinged with greens, blues, browns, and purples in the afternoon light. It was lifeless and yet in a position displaying the epitome of struggle and vitality. A sort of avian Jesus on the cross – that seems to be the best way I can describe this magnificent bird to you.

I finished my run that day imprinted and obsessed with the image of that bird. I was so compelled to see it again that the following day I rode my bike out to try to find it. I wanted to photograph it, to give it a piece of immortality, but it was already gone.


I am sure my uncanny fascination with dead birds has something to do with the tragic beauty of mortality – after all  “everything is more beautiful because we are doomed,” isn’t it? They are such pristine and fragile beings.

To see them lifeless and yet to know with such conviction that they once breathed and sang! How devastatingly wonderful!


As a final note- I really do love live birds, and perhaps it is because they are so beautiful and vibrant in life that their deaths are so poignant for me.  They are delicate reminders that we should appreciate the vibrancy present around us every day.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite thought-provoking Calvin and Hobbes cartoons:


Published by Johanne Boulat

Johanne Boulat was born in French-speaking Switzerland, where she lives again now, but she grew up under the resplendent California sun. For 21 years she basked in the spirit of the Wilderness, which she discovered on hiking as well as literary paths. She received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology from the University of California, Davis in 2012 and since then has worked as a scientific field aid, a translator, a sales specialist, and a running coach. In 2018, she completed her master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She now teaches English and Science at a local elementary school and dedicates her free time to the three “R”s: Running, Reading, and Writing.

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