Birds are the most majestic creatures on Earth -- we plaster them on our cars, flags and coins. You see them soaring up there, and think they're above all the petty savagery down here on the ground.
Well, it turns out they're dicks.
The golden eagle is perhaps the most revered bird in the entire world. It is the national bird of five countries and has been featured on the coat of arms of nearly a dozen others. It is the very symbol of animal majesty and might. Also, it is a shithead.
Ornithologists consider the golden eagle to be the "guido" of the Animal Kingdom.
Why? Well, let's say you're a turtle. You're minding your own business, taking it slow. Suddenly, holy shit, you are flying! Just effortlessly soaring through the air. Whee!
"It's about damn time, evolution."
Ah, but now, you are dropping to the ground, your slow turtle brain barely able to register the horror as the rocks rush up at you from hundreds of feet below. Congratulations, you have made the acquaintance of a golden eagle:
Rather than bothering to pry the tender tortoise meat from the shell, the eagle simply grabs the whole creature, soars as high as it can and drops it, letting gravity and the rocks below do the shell-shattering work.
For such a badass bird, it seems like an awfully dickish way to hunt. Keep in mind, in Mongolia they use golden eagles to hunt wolves. Not to harass wolves, mind you -- they don't flush out wolves so a guy with a rifle can snipe from a safe distance. No, these raptors will fearlessly dive in, throw down with and kill wild foxes and wolves that can be several times their size (the bird is only 15 pounds, max). The golden eagle pierces the victims heart with its talons, killing them instantly. To get the kill away from the bird, its handler has to distract it with a piece of meat. It's like a fucking shark with wings. One that torments turtles.
"Turtles are small fry, Earl. If we work together, I think we can take down a whole midget."
Oh, and if it finds a mountain goat way up high on a cliff? If video evidence is to be trusted, the eagle will grab it and give it the ol' turtle treatment. WARNING: Do not watch this unless you enjoy seeing innocent animals dropped from great heights and splattered mercilessly upon the rocks below:
The golden eagle, kids. It has strength, speed, keen senses, lightning reflexes ... and it uses them to toss petting-zoo-grade animals over a sheer precipice for the sake of an easy meal.
When you think about it, this really is the perfect bird to symbolize America.
Pelicans' defining feature is that they have the largest beaks in the world. That helps facilitate their unique eating technique -- basically they scoop up a bucket full of dirty water and strain out everything but the edible bits. Kind of like taking a big bite of dirt to find a potato. That doesn't make the pelican an asshole, of course. There are other reasons.
Like the fact that they never do the dishes. Even if it's totally their week.
When we say pelicans eat anything, we mean anything. If it fits in there gaping maw, it's fair game. Besides fish, amphibians and crustaceans, they have been known to chow down on pigeons, ducks, cape cormorants, kelp gulls, swift terns and African penguins. And that's also fine, birds kill other birds all the time.
But that's just the thing -- pelicans don't kill. They just swallow. Remember the Sarlacc from Return of the Jedi? And how the whole horror of the thing was that it didn't bite you or tear you -- it swallowed you whole, at which point you would be slowly digested in its stomach acid, unable to escape? That's how the pelican eats.
Unlike the Sarlacc, pelicans are rarely used as stand-ins for the terrible power of female sexuality.
So, somewhere in the world right now a fuzzy little hatchling is crammed into a Pelican's stomach, anguishing through a gruesome, protracted death. Is there any fate more inhuman than slowly suffocating in a putrid, acidic sack of rotting fish? Smothering in a living bag of vomit while greasy acid scalds your skin, searing its way into every crack and orifice? With that in mind, enjoy this video of some pelicans raiding a whole buffet of adorable ducklings:
And then we have the famous "Pelican eats a Pigeon" video. The swallowing of the live, thrashing bird occurs in a park, in front of terrified children:
And remember this was at a park where the animals get food regularly. In fact, the bird was being fed bread at that very moment. This pelican wasn't hungry. He's just a murderous glutton. Do you really think that pigeon scratching, pecking and defecating inside his mouth for 20 minutes(!) was in any way pleasant? How could that meal possibly have been worth the effort? Unless of course you need a regular supply of innocent souls to keep your feathers shiny.
Inside that beak is a war crime.
Shrikes are basically little chirping balls of feathers. They're round, pudgy, unimpressive looking songbirds with short, stunted beaks and nubby wings. They're relatively common all over the world, so you've probably seen one and didn't have a clue that it was a depraved psychopath. Shrikes are the tiny sadistic horror movie villains of the itty-bitty animal world.
If they ever make an all-bird version of The Goonies, Chunk will be played by a shrike.
These birds are famous for their hunting habits: They grab their prey, carry it back to a thorny tree, find a particularly long, sharp thorn, and impale the creature on it.
But wait, it gets better.
Better than impalement?
To attract a mate, a male shrike will go through a ritualized dance that includes feeding the female. Aww, that's so cute. Dinner and dancing? How can that be evil? Then he'll take her back to his place and show off his "larder." This is usually a thorn bush or cactus plant decorated with the impaled corpses of small lizards, mice, snakes, insects and other birds.
Tracks & Signs
"Yeah, it's a pretty nice dead bird, I guess. Once my stock options vest I'm upgrading to a dead eagle, though."
This is what will make or break the deal for him. If the moldering carcasses aren't fresh enough or if this macabre Christmas tree doesn't have suitable ornamentation, she'll move on. "Well I can certainly see where you were trying to go with this," she says while running a critical eye over a twitching, mostly-dead lizard who can't find the will to scream anymore. "Kind of a post-modern Michael Myers with subtle hints of Leatherface thrown in. It's nice, but I'm really more of a straight Freddy Krueger gal myself."
But if the she-shrike is touched by this thorny tapestry of tears and torment, then the two take a territory to terrorize together. By the way, the shrike genus was even named Lanius, which means "Butcher." We're guessing because "serial killer" didn't translate well into Latin.
Why are the cute ones always into disemboweling?