Philip and I were leaving ZooLights late last night when I happened to stumble upon two small, severed bird legs beside the entrance bridge to the zoo.
They lay on the sidewalk about two feet apart from one another. Neither was severely damaged, nonetheless they had been the recipients of some kind of raucous violence.
Here is the mystery: no other part of the bird was to be found. Just legs.
Now, my first two hypotheses were as follows: A piece of tantalizing trash lands in the road. Is there a morsel of food in it? Maybe. Maybe this bird is ravenously hungry. (Aviary pun intended.) The bird weighs his options: perhaps he is black and hard to see when sitting on the asphalt outside the zoo entrance. This complicates things. On the other hand, there could be food. He figures he has time to go investigate- but he is greedy, as is the car zooming up the road. The grill of the car makes contact, trapping the upper body of the bird and leaving the legs behind as a reminder. Alas, there is a problem with this hypothetical situation: the legs were on the sidewalk. And in my experience of animal road fatalities, it would be very unusual for the legs to not only sever completely but then to be flung onto the sidewalk.
On to the second hypothesis.
A desperate runaway tiger prowls down the street. He spots the bird and they make uneasy eye contact. Maybe he doesn’t really want to kill the bird at all, but he feels social pressure to play the part he’s been dealt: Carnivore. He lunges at the bird and looses himself in the rush of adrenaline. He eats everything—the wings, even the beak. (Gross, I know- but he’s been living off of zookeeper mush feed, so I’m willing to give him a break for desiring something perhaps a little more crunchy than his usual.) Perhaps he leaves the legs behind as a plea for help; he wants to get caught. Also, the legs are pretty unappetizing so it could be that he was just full and too grossed-out. Of course, there are issues with this hypothesis as well. Has anyone ever known a tiger to eat a bird sans legs? I can’t imagine a bird being easy to consume so completely. Also, can a tiger this powerful be fast enough to catch a small bird, born to fly away from danger? I can’t even catch a pigeon (and I have tried). Lastly, this hypothesis would require that the tiger would be free and escaped from the zoo for what I can only imagine to be several long minutes. And although I question the vast majority of their team of zookeeper’s social skills, I doubt that they could allow for a wild animal to be devouring their dinner in front of incoming guests unbridled.
We have now reached the end of my thoughts on this subject.
Well, not the true end: I did consider the possibility of a human predator. The Phoenix Zoo Bird Hunter. Before you scoff, let me say that this third hypothesis has one point of surprising merit. Perhaps the Bird Hunter is really a crazed zookeeper who needed bait for their endangered fish species in the tanks inside, dangerously close to extinction. Could it be that s/he captured the bird to feed to the fish? Fish probably would not be interested in legs, hence the removal and discarding … Then again, this hypothesis involves an astonishing amount of crazy, which is why it is not included above.
Of course, one could always conclude that this mystery is probably the least significant thing that has ever happen at the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo. But to that I would reply that surely my walking back to my car, Charlie, thinking about the death of the bird, is much more insignificant.