Grieving With ‘Outlander’ Birds & Others

Fans of the acclaimed Starz TV show, ‘Outlander’ may remember an insightful quote uttered by lead character Jamie Fraser, regarding the concept of ‘mating for life.’ As an over-arching theme, the analogy of the union of greylag geese and the love that exists between Jamie and his wife Clair cannot be lost. Their bond is so strong, it spans over 200 years and multiple continents. [For those who are questioning how that could possibly happen, I recommend you read the books or view the DVD's.

Episode 307, First Wife

Jamie's Gaelic tale of the greylag goose in Episode 307, titled 'First Wife.' is both lyrical and poignant. “Ye ken [know] the greylag? It mates for life,” Jamie declares to Claire. “Ye kill a grown one, ye must wait, for its mate will return, come to mourn. Ye must kill that one too, or else it will grieve itself to death. Calling through the skies, for the lost one.” He sums it up by concluding to Clair that they too “are mated for life.”

Greylag Grieving

In a Psychology Today post, Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. assesses animal grieving as that which is “rich” and demonstrates “deep emotions.” He underscores his point by stating it's “arrogant to think [humans] were the only animals who mourn.”

“Among the different emotions that animals display clearly and unambiguously is grief. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a close friend or loved one,” notes Bekoff.

Nobel laureate ethologist Konrad Lorenz stated: "A greylag goose that has lost its partner shows all the symptoms that [developmental psychologist] John Bowlby has described in young human children in his famous book Attachment and Loss . . . the eyes sink deep into their sockets, and the individual has an overall drooping experience, literally letting the head hang . . ."

Emperor Penguins

In describing grief in other birds, Audubon columnist Becca Cudmore states that it would difficult to imagine what a mourning bird would like. However, if forced to do so, she references the two female Emperor Penguins witnessing the death of a chick in the BBC series ‘Penguins-Spy in the Huddle.'

The documentary’s narration supports her conclusion: “The mother invested everything in her chick.” the BBC reporter intones: “To lose it is a tragedy.” Even the clip’s producers called this "the most emotional clip we’ve ever filmed."

Helping Lovebirds through their periods of Grief

One would also expect lovebirds to experience loss at the death of their ‘loving’ mate. Since they form strong bonds throughout their time together, they do show signs of grief and distress when their mate passes.

He or she may search the cage for their missing loved one, or may call out more frequently than usual. This may be accompanied by lost of appetite and less interest in playing with their toys.

So what to do? Sometimes. like with humans the only cure is ‘time.’ However, pet owners can ease their pain by providing them with more attention and giving them lots of verbal praise and affection. However, if he or she is not feeling up to all that additional attention, just provide them with space to go through the grieving process.

By all means, to allow your lovebird or any of your other pet birds feel better during this time in their life, don’t forget to take time yourself to grieve.

One excellent practice in honoring your bird after their passing is to make a donation to a local shelter or rescue in their name.

Perhaps, readers you have other tips that have helped you and/o your loved ones bridge the gap during a bird's time of grief?

Primary Source: Outlander, Episode 307, First Wife


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