Murder, the Buttonquail Wrote

I warn you: This is a tale of misdeed and mystery, mischief and murder, and possibly cannibalism.  It is not for the faint of heart or those who love small cute Disney-looking birds.  It is a true story, one that occurred over the course of several weeks this very year.

Once upon a time, Alz's dad liked to keep buttonquail.  They are petite little birds that look like something right out of Disney's Bambi.

Not quite buttonquail.

This is a buttonquail.
They're tiny cute little buggers.  They could sit in the palm of your hand, though my dad's certainly didn't.  My dad has kept buttonquail before, though they inevitably succumbed to illness or rats or UFOs since they sometimes seemed to vanish right out of the cage, never to be seen again.  He kept them in a large outdoor enclosure with doves roosting overhead--the birds all get along fine by ignoring each other, though the buttonquail have to suffer the occasional indignity of being pooped upon.

It is an idyllic picture, the doves cooing gently to each other on their perches above while the wee buttonquail bob and hop about down below.  There was a male and his harem of four females, since they are social creatures and need a little company in life.  Everything seemed fine and dandy until one day--


The doves were all there, indifferent and perhaps even ignorant of the gruesome scene below.  Quail are beneath them in more ways than one, after all.  The male buttonquail and three of the females were scuttling about as usual.

But the fourth female was a  sight: she lay amid the drying smears of her own blood and gore, eyes glazed in death, and her rear end chewed out.  Her insides had, apparently, been partially eaten by something.

I warned you it was not for the faint of heart.

My dad was, of course, shocked and dismayed by the unexpected and brutal demise of this poor little quail.  He had learned from the quail seller that the males are sometimes little bastards overly aggressive and express dominance over the females by pecking them, even to the point of killing them.  My mom thought it must have been the work of a rat that sneaked its way past the traps and through the cage-mesh and into the enclosure.

To protect the remaining four quail, my dad put them in a smaller cage inside the big enclosure. Everything seemed fine until the next day when--


Inside the cage within a cage, there were the male and three females--two alive and one dead, murdered in the same savage manner as the first.  Further, the male seemed to be picking on the newer (and smallest) female, so my dad put him in jail to separate him from the females.  My dad was understandably pissed at the male.

After three days, my dad finally relented and put the quail back together again.  And then--


Or nearly, at any rate.  My dad found the new small female barely alive, with its rear end pecked and bloodied.  The male was in the cage, calm and collected as usual.  The other female, the biggest and oldest hen, was there too.

With blood on her beak and chest feathers.

And so the buttonquail male had been falsely accused all along!  Buttonquail hens in the wild expel rival females from their territory, so undoubtedly the big female had had enough of these other little nuisances dancing around her man!  Oh, the humanity!  Er, buttonquaility!

And so life went on for a few days.  Maybe it was even a week or two.  The female at last had the male all to herself.  But you know this isn't the end.  You know what's coming.


One day not long after the last cannibalistic hen murder, my dad found the last buttonquail hen dead on the floor of the enclosure.  Pecked to death, it seemed, though not eaten in the manner of the previous hens.

And there was the male nearby.



Pitter-pattering about like normal.

There were no witnesses but the doves, who are notoriously unreliable and uninterested in the affairs of quail.  A serial killing psychopath knows when to frame those around him for the murders he committed, and knows when to bide his time until suspicion has died down and surveillance gone lax.  Ah, say you, but the last victim was not eaten the way the others were!  Ah, say I, it was because my dad walked in on the crime in progress--too late to witness the actual act, but in time to cut off the male's grisly cannibalistic ritual.

This was five months ago.  The serial killing cannibal buttonquail has been alone at the bottom of the enclosure all this time.  Perhaps this is what he wanted.  Perhaps he craved solitude and the company of his own kind drove him insane.  Perhaps, in a fit of rage, he killed the first female, and then acquired a taste (both literal and figurative) for blood.

And then, this month, my dad bought three new female buttonquail and put them in the enclosure.  Only time will tell if the male resumes his murderous ways, and likely only doves will be witness to the festival of his madness, should they ever cast their eyes to the carnage down below....

Happy Halloween, everyone!

No comments: