The sun is higher in the sky now, and the birds are staking out their territory like Crips and Bloods. They’re fat from our false winter. Here in New York, their predators are mostly the baleful skyscraper windows that urge them to dash their brains out. But not always. Yesterday I watched a merlin eat a sparrow. She perched on the church railing, silhouetted against the Manhattan skyline, and banged the sparrow’s head against a stone. She was barely bigger than her victim; her boyfriend, hovering nearby, was even smaller. Feathers flew. Merlins, like terriers, don’t realize they’re small.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at the merlin’s ambition. I am, after all, considerably smaller than most cows. Though bigger than the average chicken.

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