Hello. My name is Peggy, and I am the kestrel falcon that you have been researching on your computer for two hours because I live on the roof outside your bedroom. I know I look all majestic as the striped feathers on my chest waft in the breeze, but the truth is, I haven’t felt like myself since I randomly crapped out five mottled reddish-brown eggs and had to sit on their glistening mucus without moving for twenty-four hours a day.
My partner, Sandy, gets to “contribute” by hunting sparrows in the Campbells’ backyard. After a kill, he flaps his wings to brag in front of Carol and Lori-Ann, the two idiot morning doves who waddle under the bird feeder and coo like his wingspan isn’t the smallest in the falcon kingdom. Meanwhile, I have to rip apart the sparrow bodies on the roof as they twitch and gurgle, and then stuff the flesh into my babies’ mouths. The nest is surrounded by bloody sparrow wings in various states of decay, and I’m so exhausted I can barely attempt to nibble on the gristle. Instead, I have to sit on my chicks’ fluffy faces, waiting for their little beaks to peck the bloody tear in my cloaca (that’s Latin for my combo bird butthole/vagina) that burns every time I poop on your window.
When I complain about the chick-sitting soreness and the sparrow-mauling malaise to Sandy, he implies, by his frequent feather fluffing, that all kestrel mothers experience chick-sitting soreness and sparrow-mauling malaise. Sometimes, he likes to remind me that I’m “lucky” that kestrel falcon males are programmed to incubate eggs and feed their families. You may not know this, but Vesuvia, the female hummingbird who used to visit the red hibiscus by your kitchen window, was a single mother. (This was partially because male hummingbirds find several mates a season, but also because Sandy and I tore her partner limb to limb on our third date and left the pieces in your preschooler’s ceramic bird bath before Sandy mounted me like an erotic Pegasus.)
Sometimes, at night, I look over at Sandy as he sleeps at the other edge of the roof (he explained that he needs more rest for hunting). Even in the dark, I can see his feathers, still handsome in their trademark brown and slate blue contrast, fluffed and neat even after a hard day of hunting, providing, and divebombing on pigeons to see the fear in their dim orange eyes.
My feathers are not fluffed and neat.
My feathers look like Suzy’s feathers after she was nearly dismembered by the Northern Goshawk of northwest Brooklyn.
During these low nights, the gut-red throats of my chicks vibrate in a continuum of caws that burns my bird brain and makes me emit a long and low whine characteristic of nesting kestrel mothers. I close my eyes and imagine that I can see through the symmetrical trompe l’oeil marks on the back of my head, soft veils to the world behind the clouds and beyond this mortal coil. There, I see a sky with no predators, with nests made of the softest eider duck down, where I can eat grasshoppers and sun-fried late summer cicadas, alone.
Do you remember that day you came out with your daughter to see the nest? Sandy and I flew to the tree in your yard that smells like rotten chestnuts and electrified squirrels. As we looked down, your head had a bald spot that looked like a mouse playing dead in a field.
I wondered if you would take our chicks inside. I imagined them spending their days chained to a bird stand, their feathers stroked by your absurd flightless arms, their beaks stuffed with those beheaded chicken carcasses you love to burn.
If the chicks were gone, maybe Sandy and I could visit the tugboat harbor where he first courted me. He did this klee-klee-klee call, descended in a flutter-glide that showed me his feathered thighs, fed me a dragonfly, and we fucked. Five chicks later, and we’re mated for at least one to three years.
But when you leaned over the nest with your vulnerable, featherless skin, I have to admit, my heart fluttered like a panicked hummingbird in the instant before slaughter.
I looked over at Sandy to see if he was worried about the chicks, but he was asleep.
For a moment, I was so mad at Sandy I considered raking his face with my trademark tomial tooth designed to kill prey by severing the vertebrae in their necks, but honestly, that’s not in my kestrel nature. We’re not competitive, like other falcons.
Instead, I looked at the grass below. If I closed my eyes and fell sideways out of the tree, would that be enough to make Sandy klee-klee-klee in concern? If not, perhaps I could squat in a soft corner by a glass door, pretend to be stunned, and sleep in a Frozen shoebox prepared by your daughter.
Eventually, you left the nest and went inside.
Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice when I decided to be a (kestrel falcon) mother. Of course, by “decided,” I mean “inseminated without my consent” while Sandy rubbed his cloaca (we have the same hole) against mine as I thought about a barn owl that lunged at me once.” (According to a bunch of bald eagles, eggs have more rights than the bird-mothers who make them.)
I just hope that in six weeks, when our instincts tell us to abandon our fledglings as they stumble and cry out for us with their plaintive, human-like (to you) caws, Sandy and I can remember why we engaged in our cloacal rub-kiss in the first place.
Maybe we’ll disembowel a mouse. Or just Lori-Ann.