Western scrub jays were seen to call out to one another when discovering a dead bird. The other jays would stop foraging and gather round the body. One bird especially close to the deceased would then distribute sandwiches and cheese and pineapple on a stick.
"There is no greater way to honour the dead than with a buffet," said an expert.
The behaviour is thought to have evolved to warn other birds of danger. However, it has evolved further so other birds can honour the departed, argue over who gets what and make snarky comments about how tight-fisted the old misery was.
What often begins as a sombre, respectful ceremony, often ends in drunkenness, tears and occasionally a fight. One bird blessed with some kind of authority will assure the others that the bird is, "in a better place". This can cause much confusion as the bird is clearly in the same place as everyone else, but dead.
"May he rest in peace," the bird/cleric will wish. Often the congregation will respond: "He's not resting, you idiot. He's dead. Brown bread. Worm food. Which is ironic if you're familiar with his diet."
The mourners would then find solace in phrases like, "He had a good innings." Though the birds often find this disconcerting as most scrub jays live about 15 years. The more contemporary jay will say: "He was out early."
Many compliments will be offered in praise of the deceased, even if he was a drunken old lush and loathed by all. "He would have loved this buffet," would be heard before someone puts on Eric Clapton. Though some wag(tail)s will play something like I'm Still Standing, for one last laugh.
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