I’m not in the habit of letting my children play with dead animals. But this one flew into our kitchen window with a spectacular BANG and died from the impact.

After hearing the noise, we went outside to investigate. David picked up the honey-eater and showed it to Aisha and Brioni. He let them feel its still-warm body and talked about how it died.

And then, because Brioni in particular showed interest, he gave the dead bird to them to play with.

One dead bird, June 2010
Brioni wasn't at all squeamish about holding the corpse.

One dead bird, June 2010
She liked to feel its feathers.

One dead bird, June 2010
The girls could play with its eyelids, making it wink and blink.

One dead bird, June 2010
And we noted how its claws were curved so as to properly grip tree branches.

One dead bird, June 2010
Brioni would open its wings to pretend it was flying. I pointed out the different types of feathers — some are to keep the bird warm, and others are to fly with.

One dead bird, June 2010
Aisha was eager to show me the bird's real skin colour — yellow! (Not at all what I was expecting.)

After it had been properly examined, Brioni integrated the dead bird into pretend-play. She became a farmer, and the bird was an eagle that helped keep pests off her farm.

I could hear her talking softly to her feathered friend, arranging it in the positions of flight or repose. She played with it for about an hour, long after Aisha had moved onto other games.

And then, when she was finished, Brioni dropped her bird into the wheely bin, which was what David had instructed her to do when she was finished with it. There was no remorse, no sadness, just a simple disposal of something that no longer served a purpose.

Brioni came inside, washed her hands carefully and later spoke about the bird with authority and intimacy. For a brief moment it had been part of her world, and now it was gone. The fact that it was dead the whole time was almost irrelevant.