Animal Dilemmas – Tarsier Bird of Paradise
After the Bird of Paradise stopped singing and dancing and settled on a mate it grew serious and became busy with lovemaking. At first its mate felt lucky after seeing countless opponents with larger more colorful feathers, better voices and dances being turned away. After following the Bird for days spellbound. After bringing it food, and spinning on one leg until it could see no more.
When it finally reserve a warm smile and the battle was over the mate felt relieved. It was its first mating season and it didn’t know that this battle is just the beginning of the long war of love. After the short methodically cold physical act of mating, the Bird asks for a meal of flies and lychees. And every following day asked for the same before sending its mate to build a nest.
It wanted a nest for its litter not like any other bird, a mare pile of dirt and sticks but on a good healthy tree with a view over the river valley, good breeze, near fresh fruit and colonies of juicy insects. It wanted a solidly built nest with well dried sticks that would not warp and create discomfort over time. It wanted a wide nest with enough room for its litter, a pile of fruits, sleeping corner and resting terrace.
Only after the mate provided the wanted with all specifications then the Bird of Paradise smiled for a second time. A few days later it laid five eggs and didn’t leave the nest or spoke unless the pile of fruit and caterpillars grew too small. The mate traveled every day to fetch provisions and slept on the edge of the nest not to irritate the vigilant mother.
Around the same time the Bird laid eggs a Tarsier had settled on the trunk of the same tree. The Tarsier had noticed the giant nest and the two birds of paradise sleeping over their eggs, while on its nocturnal exploits. Having opposite schedules and lifestyles the two cohabitants didn’t not mind each other. The birds were a family, dedicated to peace and quiet, and protecting their eggs. The Tarsier was single and slept all day with the passion to find the larges, oldest, fattest caterpillars at night and debauch on them.
The birds had noticed the sleeping beast stuck in a crack of the tree but knew it ate insects like them and didn’t mind it. What they didn’t know was that the Tarsier had been specializing in hunting giant caterpillars which were bigger than the birds. The Tarsier traveled many trees over until it found the sleeping insects, larger than itself, in cracks, holes and nooks of ancient jungle trees. It was careful not to wake them because they could stab it or sting it. First it bit their necks off and then sucked the fat out of their limbs and arms.
It favored this strategy because one large insect would provide it with fat for two days. The hunt was challenging and required methodical skill and technique which fitted the intellectual capacity of the Tarsier. The alternative of chasing tens of tiny jumpy bugs through the branches was bleak and childish.
The Tarsier considered itself a superior hunter and a connoisseur of the finer things in life. That was why when the opportunity stroke it experimented with new foods and creatures it has not eaten before. Some of them it liked and added to its diet and other it didn’t and never tasted again.
On one of its such exploits it found two broken eggs that have just landed form a high nest and spilled at the base of a tree. The Tarsier licked the fatty liquid away and liked it so much that stayed until it sucked the shells dry. For days it dreamt of more eggs when it finally remembers the nest of the birds of paradise. It climbed high above the nest and observed the mother Bird. The Bird never left the nest or moved away from her eggs. Her mate returned in the evening with food and settled next to her. At night the two birds slept without stirring and the Tarsier considered surprise attack the only option.
It waited for the jungle to sink in complete darkness. At the point of the time when only nocturnal beasts like itself were about and everyone else was fast asleep the Tarsier approached the nest. It halted on the knot of branches above the birds. It could feel the wormed of the nest. And it could smell the milky aroma of the eggs.
Spellbound by desire it plunged forward arose the sleeping birds and stirred the nest into chaos. The birds could not see and thought a wild cat or a snake had found their home. They stumbled out of the nest and leaped away into the darkness. Their instincts told them to save themselves for they could start a new. The eggs crossed their mind only after it was too late. Their sadness was evident only by the fact that they never sang again.
The Tarsier landed in the nest with thunder and after it found itself alone atop the broken eggs it feasted. It sucked the fatty juice until sleep took it over and it spent the day in the nest, belly up dreaming of milky whites.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, April 26th
previous chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Bird of Paradise Serow
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photograph by Ian Baldwin