• Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Lethal Distraction

I should have know the risk because I had seen the two huge owls sitting close together on my back fence. They were Great Horned Owls*, earth brown with soft black and white markings, and russet bellies. The larger bird looked heavy and stood over two feet tall, and its companion was only slightly less. I live in the city so to see such large birds in my backyard was an unusual occurrence. The pair looked exhausted and bedraggled as if they had been battered in the updraft of a storm or tornado, or mauled fighting the intake of an airplane, or shot at, or their nest destroyed. They were clearly refugees from some sort of confrontation. I noted their sharp beaks, talons, and foul disposition and I yelled out of my back door for them to leave. When they did not even look my way, I realized that I would have to stay out of my backyard until they chose to leave. And a few days later I did not see them in my yard.


Later I was sitting in the warm sun on my back porch, enjoying a cool breeze and the sounds of nature around me. I heard a sweet bird call from somewhere in the border hedge and I sang back to it. It responded, as birds will sometimes do, by calling back to me with notes similar to mine. I sang back to it my best effort to match its notes. I never saw the songbird but we sang call and response for a minute or more. I was delighted to be so close to nature. Suddenly one of the Great Horned Owls materialized in my backyard and swooped into the hedge after the songbird who had been singing with me. The songbird squawked piteously as the Great Horned Owl crashed through the hedge and caught it. From the violent sounds of struggle in the hedge the songbird fought mightily for its life. Then by the deadly quiet I knew that it had lost. I was appalled to realize that my singing with it had distracted the songbird and cost it its life.

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* "Great Horned Owl. Wingspan: 39.8”- 57.1” Weight: 32.1oz – 88.2 oz One of the most recognizable of all owls, the Great Horned Owl is a permanent resident of Illinois." — internet

In Memorial For A Songbird

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2021

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