From out of nowhere he comes, descending like a black plague upon unsuspecting travelers, squawking a threat and challenge to any and all who displease him. Attacking innocents for the pure joy of knowing his presence strikes stark, stupefying fear into the hearts of his targets, this Cthulhuian apparition haunts the nightmares of many a Midwesterner who has had the misfortune of coming face to beak with him - and lived to tell the tale.
Like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story, this nameless horror is apt to drive one insane if they were to grasp the true, evil nature of its presence here on earth. For it is nothing less than a journey into the mind of the devil - a reflection seen in its lifeless, beady eyes - that drives the creature in its hate and bloodlust to ambush and terrorize its victims.
I am referring, of course, to the Red Winged Blackbird.
There’s a predator lurking in Chicago-area bushes these days. He strikes from behind, when victims are least aware. And the worst part, says ornithologist Doug Stotz: He could be almost anywhere.
Nesting season is in full swing for the red-winged blackbird, making the males extremely aggressive. Walk or bike too close to one’s nest and expect to hear its high, menacing squawk overhead. Then comes the peck-peck-peck on your head, victims say, or claws rustling your hair.
It happened to Holly Grosso. The businesswoman was on her cell phone, walking along West Grand Avenue near Rockwell Street on Wednesday, when the bird—dubbed “Hitchcock” by area workers—made its move.
“Something just came down, pecked me in the head, took my hair and started flying away,” she said. “It’s so bizarre. It’s this little bird.”
From Ghoulies, and Ghosties, and Long-Legged Beasties, and Things that Go Bump! in the Night, Oh Lord Deliver us. (Old Scottish prayer).
This “little bird” is a demon, a harbinger of hell whose attacks on human beings out for a walk or bike ride foreshadow a time when all the non-human entities that inhabit the earth will turn on their erstwhile masters and sweep the planet of our presence.
Alfred Hitchcock may have been having some fun at our expense when he made the film The Birds. But after a couple of run ins with this avian Satan, you will start believing the great director was a prophet rather than an entertainer.
It isn’t just that these birds swoop down and annoy you. Seagulls have been known to do this. And a few other birds - Blue Jays come to mind - don’t like humans very much and will dive bomb an unsuspecting walker now and again.
But when the Red Winged Blackbird attacks, he is out for blood. He will sit on his perch and may - not always - give a couple of warning honks as you approach. Woe betide the luckless walker or rider who ignores the message. The second you pass his nest and your back is to him, the cowardly creature will alight from his perch and make a beeline straight for your head. Just before you feel his beak nipping at your ear, a bloodcurdling sqauwk pierces your eardrum and the “fight or flee” reflex is automatically triggered. And since you cannot fight a beast circling and diving 20 feet over your head, you begin to run.
It is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in the animal kingdom. Despite the fact that you are 50 yards from its nest, the Devil Bird continues its attacks, enjoying the fact that he is terrorizing you, gleaning great satisfaction no doubt as he hears your whimpering entreaties to the Almighty, begging for relief.
You can scream at it, wave your hands, shake your fist, even throw a rock at it and the damn thing just keeps coming - a pitiless, relentless force of pure avian evil. What is so disconcerting about the attack is that at one point, you realize you are about 150 times bigger than the little sh*t and that if the wretched, filthy thing stood still for just a second you’d punch its lights out - permanently - and feed the remains to your cat.
I used to walk to work years ago and every day was like enduring a Native American gauntlet. There were at least a half dozen places along my route where I had to be on constant guard against these sudden, brutal attacks. I would cross the highway to avoid the Blackbird hot spots when I could but there were a couple of places where that simply wasn’t pracitical. I took to carrying a rolled up newspaper but it did little good. The gargoyles easily evaded my pitiful attempts to ward them off.
Anyone who says birds aren’t intelligent need only observe the behavior of these maleovolant entities in order to grasp the diabolical way their peanut sized brains work. I figured out that if you look at them while you pass (sometimes you couldn’t see them as they would be hidden by the trees or bushes), all they do is squawk irritably at you. Of course, this means you have to walk backwards once you pass them - a practice that caused more than one motorist on the highway I’m sure to question what insane asylum I had escaped from.
More than once, I would walk backwards 20 or 30 yards past their perch. But the second I turned around it was party time for the bird as his gonzo attack would be more vicious than ever. The damn thing was probably annoyed I had gotten so far away from his clutches.
Now I’m all for conservation and everything. Save the whales, don’t club baby seals (unless they truly deserve it), only cut down first growth timber if you’re going to make my oak dining room table and please, whatever you do, leave a few large mouth bass in the stream for the rest of us.
But even my love of nature can’t stop the evil thoughts about what I think should be done with every Red Winged Blackbird in North America.