TO FALL OFF ONE’S PERCH

To fall off one’s perch is a rather irreverent way of saying that someone has died. It is a rather old-fashioned idiom which, believe it or not, is meant to be humorous. Another meaning I came across for it is to fail, or suffer damage to your status or position.

I have mentioned before that during this drought a number of doves especially seem to have died inexplicably not only in our garden, but in neighbouring ones. Someone suggested a cat may be responsible, having punctured the birds with its claws. It is awful to think of birds dying a slow death as a result. There has been no evidence on any of these birds of obvious marks of an attack or of the deaths resulting from them having flown into the windows.

Yesterday morning, we were enjoying a cup of tea in the shade of the trees on the lawn while watching a few Bronze Mannikins enjoying a meal at one of the feeders, when we heard the sound of something falling through the branches of the tree in front of us. I looked up, expecting to see a twig, and was taken aback by the sight of a bundle of what looked like fur. The object dropped with a thud onto the ground – it was a Speckled Mousebird. It landed on its back, its claws twitched briefly and the long tail feathers lifted slightly then fell back. The bird was dead.

It had literally fallen off its perch! We scanned the tree and the sky for any sign of a snake or a raptor – nothing. Again, there is not a mark on the bird to suggest it had been attacked by anything untoward. Intriguingly, there were no other mousebirds in the area – they are most frequently seen in groups. According to https://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/bird-life-expectancy-speckled-mousebird the lifespan of a Speckled Mousebird is eight to ten years. Had this bird simply reached the end of its life?

When I went out this morning, thinking to dispose of the dead bird, all signs of it had disappeared! What took it away during the night? I see no feathers or any sign of it having been eaten on the spot. A trail cam would have been useful.

20 thoughts on “TO FALL OFF ONE’S PERCH

  1. So unusual to witness such a thing! It may have been aged, but I wonder if the drought has led to stress, either through dehydration and lack of adequate food? Birds are sought after protein and rarely go to waste in the wild. I never find any the next day that I’ve placed out at the wood edge.

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    • I’ve wondered about that, but we have enjoyed rain and cooler temperatures recently. There is plenty of water and natural food about. I’m guessing it was age.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of a poem about an unfortunate end to a robin’s life… What a mystery, Anne. I once had the misfortune of seeing the same happen to a pet budgie we had when I was a child. I hope it was just time for this bird to “fall of its perch”, and if so I am glad he could do it while enjoying a last cup of tea in the garden that sustained him for so long!

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    • Who killed Cock Robin?
      I, said the Sparrow,
      with my bow and arrow,
      I killed Cock Robin.

      Who saw him die?
      I, said the Fly,
      with my little eye,
      I saw him die.

      Who caught his blood?
      I, said the Fish,
      with my little dish,
      I caught his blood.

      Who’ll make the shroud?
      I, said the Beetle,
      with my thread and needle,
      I’ll make the shroud.

      Who’ll dig his grave?
      I, said the Owl,
      with my pick and shovel,
      I’ll dig his grave.

      Who’ll be the parson?
      I, said the Rook,
      with my little book,
      I’ll be the parson.

      Who’ll be the clerk?
      I, said the Lark,
      if it’s not in the dark,
      I’ll be the clerk.

      Who’ll carry the link?
      I, said the Linnet,
      I’ll fetch it in a minute,
      I’ll carry the link.

      Who’ll be chief mourner?
      I, said the Dove,
      I mourn for my love,
      I’ll be chief mourner.

      Who’ll carry the coffin?
      I, said the Kite,
      if it’s not through the night,
      I’ll carry the coffin.

      Who’ll bear the pall?
      We, said the Wren,
      both the cock and the hen,
      We’ll bear the pall.

      Who’ll sing a psalm?
      I, said the Thrush,
      as she sat on a bush,
      I’ll sing a psalm.

      Who’ll toll the bell?
      I said the bull,
      because I can pull,
      I’ll toll the bell.

      All the birds of the air
      fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
      when they heard the bell toll
      for poor Cock Robin.

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      • That’s the one, but I remember the Afrikaans translation better, in any case the first verse:
        Wie het Roelie Rooibors vermoor?
        “Ek”se die mossie,
        “Het weggekruip agter n bossie,
        en met n pyl hom deurboor”

        I wonder of today’s kids also learn such gruesome nursery rhymes? 😀

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  3. Here in south Florida, where we came for beach walks in the sun, some unusually cold temperatures resulted in iguanas dropping from the trees, stunned, the news report put it. Happily, they revived on the warmer earth, not having fallen altogether from their perch.

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